Jockey Martin Garcia followed up his win in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Saturday with a pair of stakes wins at Sunland Park on Sunday. Those three stakes victories at two different tracks helped him win the Jockeys' Guild Jockey of the Week award for March 14th – March 20th. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys' Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.
On Saturday at Oaklawn Park, Garcia helped Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert get his sixth victory since 2010 in the $900,000 Rebel Stakes with Coolmore's Cupid.
Regular rider Martin Garcia, making the trip from Southern California, used his inside post position to his advantage as he and Cupid went to the front right from the start and proceeded to lead the 13 other rivals from gate to wire. Garcia was able to give Cupid a breather into the far turn and it allowed him to keep just enough in reserve to hold off Whitmore to win by 1 ¼ lengths in a final time of 1:43 4/5 for 1 1/16 miles over a fast track.
The 32 year-old native of Vera Cruz, Mexico said Cupid showed some inexperience in early stretch. “When we hit the top of the stretch, he got lonely and he locked in on the other horse that was coming up on the outside. He responded one more time,” Garcia said. “He showed a lot of ability and we know he can run. He really proved today that he is improving. The distance doesn't matter, he can go as far as he wants.”
Baffert and Garcia would head west the next day but not to their home base in Santa Anita. Sunland Park was the destination on Sunday where Garcia would once again go wire-to-wire in the $415,000 Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes aboard Collected. After breaking on top Collected won by two widening lengths as the even-money favorite and covered 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.90 on a fast track.
“I used a little bit of horse at the start, but once we got the lead he was cruising,” Garcia said. “When I asked him to go, he responded nicely. I think we even saved something for his next race.”
Trainer Justin Evans and Garcia teamed up to win the $100,000 Bill Thomas Memorial Stakes aboard Redneck Humor earlier on the Sunland Park Card.
Garcia will be chasing his second Triple Crown win and his first Derby victory as Cupid moved into a tie for 4th on the Derby Leaderboard. In May of 2010, Garcia rode the Bob Baffert trainee Lookin at Lucky to victory in the 135th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. The plan for Cupid is to run once again at Oaklawn in the Arkansas Derby on April 16th.
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