Action Andy will run in the 21st De Francis Dash on Saturday at… (Handout photo )
Maryland trainer Carlos Garcia said it takes a little patience to coax success from an inexpensive race horse. He might have added love and peppermints, too, because that is what the 62-year-old gives his Laurel Park-based horses, and it has paid off well.
Saturday, Garcia will send Action Andy, the winner of the Jim McKay Maryland Million Sprint, to post in the 21st running of the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash. If Action Andy wins, it will be Garcia's 145th career stakes victory.
"I enjoy developing horses," Garcia said. "I train for others, and they don't buy expensive horses. The name of the game is to be patient and give them time to develop. I've had Action Andy since he was born, and he's become the best horse in my stable."
Action Andy, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Baltimore native Robert Gerczak, is one of 11 horses who will run in the De Francis Dash, and one of just two Maryland breds. Action Andy is the fourth favorite on the morning line at 6-1, while Maryland-bred Broad Rule, trained by Dickie Small, is a long shot at 20-1.
Of the interlopers — the ones coming from outside of Maryland — Sean Avery, a Grade I winner trained by Allen Iwinski in New Jersey, is the 5-2 favorite; and Pacific Ocean, a Grade III winner trained by New York-based Rick Dutrow, is the second favorite at 7-2. Royal Currier, who runs consistently in graded company in New York and New Jersey, is the 9-2 third choice.
Lightly raced over his career — this will be only his 13th career start — he has four stakes wins this year.
The De Francis Dash is part of an all-day extravaganza that includes the $350,000 Dash on the dirt and five $150,000 stakes races on the turf. The 11-race card begins at 12:35 p.m. The De Francis Dash is scheduled for shortly after 5 p.m.
Garcia has had his stables at Laurel Park since 1984, when he came here from New York after being listed among the Top 10 trainers in the country from 1977 to 1984. He did it with just 17 horses in his barn.
"I'm a hands-on trainer and a detail freak," Garcia said. "I think things can get out of hand with too many horses."
Sometimes, they can get out of hand with less. Garcia reduced his workload in 2010. He worked as a jockey's agent for then-apprentice Brian Pedrosa, who won races in New York, Delaware and Maryland. But Garcia came back to training full time last year.
"I liked working with Pedrosa," he said. "I like helping young people — and young horses, teaching them how to do their jobs. Maybe I'm a teacher and I don't know it. But it was too expensive to do it the way I was doing it. The [workers'] compensation costs while having the horses under another trainer were ridiculous. I was paying $48,000 a year. To do that and make a living, you have to win $500,000 in purses."
So he came back to training in his own stable full time.
At the end of the shedrow, Action Andy is eating from his hay rack, which is hung just outside his stable door. When people pass by, he stops, shakes his head and looks at them. Often, he is rewarded with a mint.
"My horse is a good horse," Garcia said, shortly before handing a visitor a handful of mints for the De Francis entry. "He can run on dirt and turf — if it's dry. He's not the same when the grass is wet or the dirt sloppy because he tries so hard, digging in, he sometimes can't get a grip. We're hoping for a sunny day."
Action Andy will be Garcia's first entry in the De Francis Dash. He's hoping his horse performs well.
"It would be nice to be the winner and carry the Maryland flag into the winner's circle," Garcia said. "It's going to be a very tough race, but we're not scared. Those other horses are coming to our track."
21st Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash
What: Featured race in Fall Festival of Racing
Where: Laurel Park
When: 5:09 p.m. (approximate post time)
Other: Free Laurel Park sports cap to first 4,000 paid fans
More information: http://www.laurelpark.com Text TERPS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun Terps sports text alerts