Martin Garcia is relishing the opportunity to partner leading Kentucky Derby contender Charlatan in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn on Saturday night.
The Bob Baffert-trained colt has created a huge impression in his two starts to date and is vying for Kentucky favouritism with Florida Derby victor Tiz The Law.
The Oaklawn race has been split into two divisions and the son of Speightstown will run from stall one in the first division, where opposition in the $500,000 event includes Gouverneur Morris and Anneau D’Or.
Garcia finds himself in the right place at the right time, having once been closely associated with the Baffert barn before a reported disagreement in the spring of 2016.
His time with Baffert was hugely productive and included wins in races such as the Preakness Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic, while he partnered Triple Crown hero American Pharoah on his first career start.
Garcia is riding regularly for the first time at Oaklawn after relocating from the Southern California to the Midwest in the autumn, and changing plans for top trainers and horses necessitated by the Covid-19 outbreak has thrown up unexpected opportunities.
Baffert began sending select horses to Hot Springs after Santa Anita suspended racing on March 27.
Garcia said he was informed on Sunday by his agent, Jay Fedor, that he would be riding Charlatan and also Improbable, who goes in the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap.
“I’ve been pretty lucky because he had options to put anybody on these horses and then he gives me a chance,” Garcia told Oaklawn publicity. “I’ve been lucky. Those opportunities don’t come every day and I just have to take advantage of that.”
Garcia has been breezing Baffert’s new arrivals and they have turned back in the clock in the afternoon, too, going five for six together through Sunday.
“Martin’s been helping me out there,” said, who has the also-unbeaten Nadal in the second division.
“Martin, he knows my horses. He’s been on every good horse I’ve ever had. He can handle pressure pretty well, too. I’m glad that he’s doing really, really well.”