Most mornings at the track, longtime jockey Ralph Garcia can be found in the company of women.
"I'm pretty lucky to have a pony girl for a daughter, a jockey for a daughter, and a trainer for a wife. I call them 'the girls,'" he said.
Sometimes this female clan grows even larger when Ralph's mother stops by to watch him exercise horses. Also, a stablehand has taken to calling him dad.
"I guess I adopted her, or maybe she adopted me," he said.
Shyann Garcia, the jockey, will be looking for her first win in 10 starts when she rides Pdiddydash in the third race Saturday.
"She stole my mount," Ralph lamented.
The quarter horse is owned by Butte Crest Ranch, ponied by Sierra and trained by Jackie Garcia. A year ago he blazed to victory in near-record time, but that was his most recent race.
Trainer James Young had a win, a second and three thirds on opening weekend. Earlier, he called Welfare Cadillac the best of his 17 horses, and that's who won.
"I'll run him again Sunday. I might as well. He turns every work into a race," said Young. He thinks Joe Crispin will be ready to ride him again. Crispin reportedly broke his elbow or possibly a foot bone when a horse reared at the gate before last Sunday's races. Do jockeys heal that fast?
"He's tough," said Young, who is also giving Shyann Garcia a ride on X Pensive Impulse in the seventh race Saturday.
Let us now praise older horses. Sher Veil, still racing at the age of 9, won at 5 1/2; furlongs June 12 in Union, then repeated his success Sunday at Grants Pass.
"I was so proud of him," said trainer Margie Cantrell. "He run so big. To win two in a week — that's something."
Hot jockey Hugo Herrera rode him both times.
"Hugo's a nice kid. We're lucky to have him on our horses," Cantrell said.
Sher Veil hadn't been on the track for three years when Cantrell found him in 2007.
"Actually my horseshoer found him. A lady had bought him as a trail horse, but she was afraid of him. It took two years to get him in shape," she said.
Cantrell and owner Chris Daley hauled Shar Veil to races in Walla Walla, Dayton and Union before bringing him back to Grants Pass.
"He deserves a week's rest," said Cantrell.
Another of their horses, Cascade Gangsta, is entered for Sunday. He's a 3-year-old Oregon homebred.
- Bettors were buzzing at the size of trifectas last week, especially for the thoroughbreds. They ranged up to $1,307, with several more in the hundreds of dollars. Full fields of eight horses make for sweeter payoffs.
- Some horse owners experience brief careers.
Randy Richmond ran Black Easter for the first and last time Saturday. He'd nursed the 5-year-old for a bowed tendon over the winter, and he entered the opening day of racing expecting great things.
"I got a fifth. The bow came back, so I'm taking him home. From now on I'll stick to mucking stalls. I get paid for that," Richmond said.
Other horse owners, pretty much all of them in fact, suffer setbacks.
Nancy Klapatch was supposed to run her much-heralded Old Standard last weekend, but the unraced 3-year-old slipped and fell on concrete, severely bruising his knee and shoulder. The swelling has subsided, and he returned to the track Wednesday.
"I can't race here because he has penicillin in him. I'll get him vet-OK'd in time for Prineville. Then we're off to California," said Klapatch.
The breakdown of Sandita and Timely Brush last Saturday has been analyzed exhaustively on the backside this week. Although some media accounts blame the new track, the trainers and jockeys feel otherwise.
"It's not the track," said Ralph Garcia. "The track is soft and quiet. Last year, when the horses ran by, it sounded like they were running on a barrel. The problem is with the horses. Grants Pass is the end of the line for some of them."
Dan Guthrie is a Grants Pass writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org