The COVID-19 pandemic invaded the horse racing world again this week when jockey Martin Garcia tested positive for the coronavirus. The news came after Kentucky health officials told Garcia about his positive test, according to the Daily Racing Form.
Garcia’s agent, Jay Fedor, said Garcia was on his way to Indiana Grand to ride Miss T Too in Wednesday’s $200,000 Indiana Oaks. Instead, Julien Leparoux took the Bill Mott-trained mount. Garcia, meanwhile, turned around and returned to Kentucky, where he’s now undergoing a mandatory 14-day quarantine, the required protocol for any Kentucky resident testing positive.
Fedor told the DRF that Garcia is asymptomatic and shows no signs of COVID-19. Garcia tested negative while riding at Churchill Downs’ just-completed spring-summer meet, but underwent another test Tuesday at Keeneland, a mandatory condition for all riders. That test came back positive.
Given Garcia’s migrations of late, this may be only the first positive test among jockey colonies on both coasts. Since June 30, Garcia rode at Indiana Grand, Ellis Park in Kentucky, Los Alamitos in California, and Prairie Meadows in Iowa. This, after spending most of June at Churchill Downs. A former mainstay of the Southern California riding colony, Garcia was scheduled to ride during Keeneland’s abbreviated five-day meet, which began Wednesday.
Castellano Rode This Path Before
Garcia became the second jockey of note testing positive for the coronavirus. In March, Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano tested positive after riding in Arkansas and New York before returning to Florida. Like Garcia, Castellano was asymptomatic. He self-quarantined, then returned to the track on May 1.
Speaking of Indiana Grand, track officials announced Thursday that all jockeys riding there stay exclusively there. The new restriction kicks in Friday and applies to both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse jockeys.
Should jockeys leave Indiana for, say, Kentucky, they aren’t allowed to ride at Indiana Grand until completing a 14-day quarantine period. After that, they must test negative for COVID-19.
Indiana Grand’s Jockey Colony Loses Depth
Jockeys shipping in from another state to ride exclusively at Indiana Grand get the flip side of that. They must first serve a 14-day quarantine and provide a negative COVID-19 test before being allowed mounts. This mirrors a similar policy Oaklawn Park in Arkansas employed this spring with migrating jockeys from Louisiana’s Fair Grounds.
This will hurt the overall jockey quality at Indiana Grand, where Kentucky-based jockeys such as Florent Geroux, Joe Talamo, Robby Albarado, and Miguel Mena make frequent pilgrimages across the border to ride on days Kentucky tracks are dark. On Wednesday, Geroux pulled the Indiana Derby-Oaks double, winning the Oaks on Shedaresthedevil and the Derby aboard Shared Sense.
Given the more lucrative races in Kentucky, he and his bluegrass-based brethren likely won’t be back in Indiana anytime soon.