Garrett Gomez is sitting pretty Saturday. The two-time Eclipse
Award-winning jockey could ride three favorites, ranging from short,
shorter to shortest, in three graded stakes at Santa Anita: Flashback in
the Grade I Santa Anita Derby, Beholder in the Grade I Santa Anita
Oaks, and Jimmy Creed in the Grade II Potrero Grande Stakes. In all, he
is named to ride in nine of the 11 races, the most for him in one day
Through Sunday, Gomez had 45 wins from 188 mounts, good for third in Santa Anita’s standings.
But Saturday, it boils down to just another day at the office
for the 41-year-old rider, whose battles to hell and back with substance
abuse have been well-documented in his award-nominated book, “The
Garrett Gomez Story: A Jockey’s Journey Through Addiction &
“I just ride my races,” Gomez said when asked if there was more
pressure than usual riding favorites in big races. “Of course, you
always look forward to them. Anytime you get an opportunity to ride good
horses in good races, it’s exciting.
“Hopefully, the horses all perform the way they have been. We
know they’re prepared or else they wouldn’t be entered. They’ve been
doing well and hopefully they show their talent.”
Gomez got the mount on Flashback when trainer Bob Baffert
jettisoned Julien Leparoux after he finished second on the even-money
favorite in the San Felipe Stakes.
Gomez, like others before him in his profession, has been on both
sides of the fence. In fact, Gomez was publicly railed by Baffert after
finishing fourth in a troubled trip on the trainer’s 4-5 favorite
Lookin At Lucky in the 2010 Santa Anita Derby.
“It’s part of the business,” Gomez affirmed. “The wheels just
keep turning, but I keep doing what I do. I enjoy riding and winning
races, and as long as I keep doing that, hopefully people (trainers)
will keep seeking my services and I’ll go out there and perform. The
more live horses I get to ride, the better I look.”
Gomez has never ridden Flashback in a race, “but I worked him a
week ago Monday. He breezed very nicely, he did everything beautifully
and he seems to be very talented.”
As for strategy, Gomez will wait and see. “I don’t know what Bob
has in mind yet,” Gomez said, “but I’m sure I will as the race draws
nearer. As far as right now, I’ve been on him, gotten a feel for him,
and kind of gave him a test drive and it was an enjoyable ride.”
Gomez’s resume to date is replete with Hall of Fame potential save for every jockey’s dream: victory in the Kentucky Derby.
“That’s why most of us ride,” Gomez said. “We have similar goals
and that’s what most of us are in the sport to do. Just to ride in it
is a heck of an accomplishment, but I want to win that thing. Bob and I
got close in 2009 when we ran second with Pioneerof the Nile.
“Hopefully we can it get done this year with Flashback.”
The field for the Santa Anita Derby, race nine of 11: Flashback,
Garrett Gomez, 9-5; Hear the Ghost, Corey Nakatani, 5-2; Power Broker,
Rafael Bejarano, 5-1; Tiz a Minister, Joe Talamo, 6-1; Goldencents,
Kevin Krigger, 6-1; Super Ninety Nine, Martin Garcia, 6-1; Summer
Exclusive, Edwin Maldonado, 20-1; Storm Fighter, Gary Stevens, 20-1; and
Dirty Swagg, Tyler Baze, 50-1. Each horse carries 122 pounds.
In other Santa Anita Derby news:
Bob Baffert, who seems to draw the rail in the majority of stakes
races, on getting No. 1 for Flashback: “Can you believe it?,” then
quickly tossing in this rational addendum, “but there’s a lot of speed
in the race. They’ll sort themselves out.” Baffert has 11 horses entered
Tyler Baze anticipates Dirty Swagg outrunning his morning line
odds of 50-1 now that the son of Street Hero can properly inhale and
“They did some throat surgery on him, so hopefully he can breathe
better,” Baze said.
That could explain Dirty Swagg’s distant finishes in his last two
races, seventh by 14 ¾ lengths in the CashCall Futurity Dec. 15, and
fifth by 27 ½ lengths in the Sham Stakes Jan. 5.
Owned, bred and trained by Myung Kwon Cho, Dirty Swagg was third
prior to those two races, beaten only a length by Carving in the Real
Quiet Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park in November.