I Want to Go to Another Level

Baffert, his wife Jill and Garcia

By: Ed Bain

Being a jockey is a very dangerous, physically demanding and a mentally challenging job. Keeping weight down, early hours at the track and dealing with demanding trainers is also part of the job.

A jockey makes a commission of 10% of the purse when he wins, 5% for second third or fourth and they make about a $100 a mount for all other placings. Big jockeys will take volume in order to make even more money. As many as 1,000 to 1,200 rides a year.

The goal of all jockeys is to catch on with a leading trainer. If they do, the sky is the limit. John Velazquez caught on with Todd Pletcher and their success led to other trainers giving him wins. John Velazquez has earned $300 million on the track. His 10% is worth $30 million. He is still racing today.

The big trainer to catch on to in the present is Bob Baffert. In Stakes races he uses many top jockeys from Southern California; Victor Espinoza, Gary Stevens, Rafael Bejarano, and Mike Smith who just won the Kentucky Derby with Justify earning about $130,000 bucks for the fastest two minutes in sports.

The way Baffert trains is he employs one jockey that rides the every day races in Southern California. David Flores held this position with Baffert for years. Jockey Martin Garcia replaced David Flores. This jockey works out the horses and then rides them in MSW races to get their maiden win. If the horse has talent, Baffert then employs one of the top experienced big race jockeys to go for graded stakes wins. Baffert does not change riders often. He states most trainers go with whoever the current hot jockey is.

Martin Garcia has had two chances with Bob Baffert. Garcia’s job with Bob Baffert was to prepare the horses to race. He was to get to the track early in the morning to work out the horses and then run them in the Maiden Special Weight class in the afternoon until the horse has the MSW win. California Maiden Special Weights have a purse of $42,000. The winning owner collects 60% of this MSW purse which is $25,000 and Martin Garcia collects 10% of this and would earn $2,500 when they won.

Martin Garcia grew up on a farm in Mexico. He immigrated to Pleasanton California in 2003 and went to work in a delicatessen as a sandwich maker. A former jockey helped him get started as an exercise rider. He caught on as a rider and won a title at Bay Meadows. In 2006 he moved to Santa Anita and started riding and exercising horses for Bob Baffert, the top trainer in California. Success followed for Garcia. He earned really big money. He went from sandwich maker to millionaire.

Baffert had an issue with Martin Garcia that would have been so easy to fix that it is a head shaker that Garcia did not understand his job with Baffert. That was for him to get to the track in the morning and work out the horses. Baffert let Martin Garcia go once and then hired him back. Then the same issues happened again; get there in the morning and work his scheduled horses. The second time Martin Garcia left Baffert he stated “He wanted to go to another level. I think its best to make a little change.” Garcia moved his tack to Aqueduct.

The only way a jockey moving to New York can catch on if they move there during the Aqueduct winter meet.  They can establish themselves with trainers who will give him rides and if the jockey has a good win rate then the trainers moving back to New York from Gulfstream will give them mounts. I think Martin forgot that he won four Breeders cup races and a Preakness Stakes aboard Lookin at Lucky and was already racing at another level.

Martin has just moved back to Santa Anita. He raced at Aqueduct for about 3 months and during this time he had 189 starts with 17 wins for a 9% win rate.

Garcia with Bob Baffert over the past 4 years had 572 races in California with 127 wins for a 22% win rate.

At Aqueduct Martin was on 15 favorites, 4 won for a 27% win rate.

With Baffert Martin was on 183 favorites and won with 78 for a 43% win rate.

Martin Garcia had 33 Maiden Special Weight races at Aqueduct and hit on 4 for a 12% win rate.

With Baffert in Maiden Special Weights he had 251 races, 30 wins for a 12% win rate.

In stakes races at the Big A Garcia was aboard 17 and hit with 2 for a 12% win rate.

With Baffert he went to post 119 times in stakes races and won with 20 for a 17% win rate that is for California only.

Martin Garcia and his 17 wins at Aqueduct cashed for almost $900,000 in purses the owner received 60% around $670,000 and Garcia earned his 10% commission around $67,000.

With Baffert he produced 127 wins in 4 years with purses that came to $19,300,000. The owners picked up $13,320,000. Martin Garcia earned 10%, $1,330,000. Martin Garcia earned an average of $330,000 a year from Bob Baffert from only his California winners. These earnings do not show all the trainers Garcia rode for that gave him mounts. These figures are only for win money when riding for Baffert. These do not include the 5% commission or mount fee money of his earnings, just his win money.

Because Martin Garcia won so much for the high profile Bob Baffert other trainers gave him 1,216 mounts in Southern California. He won on 141 for an 11% win rate and earned him about another million dollars.

So what went wrong with Martin Garcia?  I think it was a combination of things and more than the one thing of not working out Baffert’s horses. I also believe that because Garcia did not come from a racing back ground where the time spent on a job is accepted as part of the life of jockeys and workers who grew up around horses on the backstretch. Garcia may have thought that he was the reason his horses won for Bob Baffert. That he was the star. Martin Garcia now knows that he made a big mistake and that he with Bob Baffert were already racing at another level.
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2 Replies to “I Want to Go to Another Level”

  1. Hi Ed,
    Interesting article. It sort of reminds me when actors leave a top rated tv show. You never know how well you had it till you leave. Hope all is well with you and Susan.

  2. Yes, that is a very good analogy. I know you’ve been handicapping the Preakness. I decided not to post a play. I figured Bob Baffert and Justify will be rolling at the quarter poll.

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