By Monique Welch
Newcomer jockey Wilmer Garcia first put himself on the Tampa Bay Downs map on Dec. 17 when he rode the filly Triple Chelsea to victory in the $100,000 Lightning City Stakes.
On Saturday, the 25-year-old Garcia gained even more notice as he won three races in a row at the Oldsmar track.
He started with the fourth race with 4-year old Judy’s Chance, trained by Derek Ryan. He added the fifth race with 3-year old colt Dizzy Gillespie for trainer Joseph Arboritanza.
Garcia finished the win streak in race six with Awalkinthemoonlite. At 11-1 odds, they won by three-quarters of a length victory over the 9-10 favorite Be Nice or Leave who was under the powerful duo of jockey Daniel Centeno and trainer Arnold Delacour.
The 8-year-old Awalkinthemoonlite is owned by Anthony Granitz and Jeremiah Stables and trained by Granitz, also the trainer of Triple Chelsea.
Garcia almost made it a perfect 4-for 4 day in the ninth race on 10-1 shot Just My Game, trained by Kathleen O’Connell. But they came up a 1 ¼ lengths short to 5-year old mare ZouZou, ridden by Centeno and trained by O’Connell.
“We’re trying to break the ice and get noticed, and so far it is working out well,” said Garcia a Manati, Puerto Rico native.
Working with his agent Richard Ancona, he has nine wins through Sunday and is tied for eighth in the Tampa Bay jockey standings.
Garcia began riding in the United States in 2011. He gained attention as an apprentice in 2012, including 12 wins at the Saratoga meet.
He missed most of 2013 after fracturing his neck in a car accident. He began his comeback the following year. He regained prominence last year at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., riding 25 winners and tying for eighth in the standings.
Saturday’s eighth and feature race surprised many as the favorite King of Diamonds ridden by Daniel Centeno came in third behind Hesmakingabigscene and Map Room.
Pablo Morales guided Hesmakingabigscene to a neck victory over Map Room who finished one length ahead of King of Diamonds, trained by Delacour and ridden by Centeno.
The race was an allowance at 1 1/16 miles on turf for 4-year-olds and up. Hesmakingabigscene won in 1:42.41 on the course listed as firm.
In Sunday’s sixth race, the six-furlong Pelican Prep, 4-year-old gelding Futile stamped himself as a leading candidate for the $100,000 Pelican Stakes on Feb. 18 with an impressive 1-length score from a fast-charging Tiger Blood. The 7-5 favorite, Springmeier, finished third. Futile sped the distance in 1:09.91 under leading jockey Centeno.
Futile is now 4-for-5 in his career, having progressed smartly through his conditions with the only slipup a third-place finish in a conditional allowance at Delaware in August. He was making his first start since Nov. 12. Delacour trains the winner for the Lael Stables of Futile’s breeders and owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson.
Ronald Allen Jr. rode three winners on Sunday. That gives him 19 for the meet and puts him third in the standings. Centeno leads with 36 followed by Pablo Morales with 20.
Tampa bay Downs’s next live racing day is Wednesday, with ten races and first post of 12:25 p.m.
On Saturday, it will have three stakes races.
*The $100,000 Pasco is seven furlongs on dirt for 3-year-old males.
*The $100,000 Gasparilla is seven furlongs on dirt for 3-year-old fillies.
*The $50,000 Wayward Lass is 1 1/16 miles on dirt for fillies and mares 4-years-old and up.