Garrett Gomez made his name by finishing first.
And to a competitive jockey like him, it had to be frustrating to watch three of the horses he was slated to ride on Sunday win their races at Santa Anita while he recuperated from being thrown from his mount in Saturday’s Eddie Logan Stakes.
Gomez lost a few teeth when Back At You tried to jump the stretch rail while leading Santa Anita’s seventh race Saturday, causing both man and horse to crash to the ground. But no doubt Gomez’ biggest loss during this freak occurrence was the opportunity to break Jerry Bailey’s earnings mark of $23,354,960 set in 2003, which Gomez would have almost certainly done on Sunday.
But now, even though Gomez is back riding again, it seems his chances of eclipsing Bailey crashed when Back At You went down.
However, champions don’t quit and, although time is running out, Gomez seems determined to set the record for earnings in one year.
As of Tuesday, Gomez’ 2008 mounts have earned $23,275,879 for their owners, which puts him just $79,081 shy of Bailey’s total. Gomez’s amount would have topped Bailey’s total Sunday if he was the one riding Proudinsky in the $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap as scheduled, instead of Rafael Bejarano. Proudinsky, a German-bred, was the 7/5 favorite in the 1-1/8 turf race and he defeated six other rivals by 3/4 of a length, earning $90,000 for owner Johanna Louise Glen-Teven.
Also, two horses that Gomez was named to ride on Sunday also won the two races that preceded the San Gabriel Handicap: In the sixth race, Wild Diplomat, ridden by fill-in jockey Joe Talamo, won $22,200 for owners E. Smith & Sterling Stable, and in the seventh Unusual Spirit’s victory by rider Mike Smith was worth $28,800 to owner-trainer Jerry Fanning.
It’s safe to assume that there was no possible way Gomez could strap his body to the back of a horse on Sunday. Because if Gomez, who won two races Monday, rode those three winning horses on Sunday then he would have shot by Bailey with 2008 purse earnings of $23,416,879 — or $61,919 more than Bailey’s 2003 money won.
During Saturday’s Eddie Logan Stakes, Back At You had a clear lead in the stretch, but the lightly-raced 2-year-old tried to jump the inner rail as he approached a large shadow of the grandstand that darkened the turf course. According to Bloodhorse.com, Gomez, who was taken to the hospital, broke several front teeth, cut his knee and one of his hands was swollen. Gomez had cosmetic dental surgery and took off his mounts Sunday, but on Monday he was back in the saddle, winning the third race on Suit Yourself and the fifth on Trainspotting.
As for the fallen horse, Back At You didn’t suffer much major damage. Trainer Eddie Truman told Daily Racing Form that Back At You’s wounded leg was stitched up and the trainer could find no other injuries. Truman speculated that his horse was confused by the shadows from the grandstand covering the front stretch of the turf course after racing in bright sunshine on the backstretch and far turn.
Back At You will resume training in less than a month after resting for a couple of weeks, Truman said.
Santa Anita Park next races on Wednesday, which is the last day of the year. Gomez, who still has an outside shot of beating Bailey, is named to ride four horses in races with purses totaling $185,000. The winning owner earns 60 percent of the purse.
To set the record, Gomez will need to win both the $56,000 sixth race on #2 Kynishka at 3/1, and the seventh on #8 Baroness Thatcher, a 4/1 shot, in the $70,000 Kalookan Queen Handicap — which carries $21,000 in added money.
If he loses either one, then Gomez finishes second in this race for the record — albeit to Jerry Bailey, one of the all-time greats.