Garrett K. Gomez
Gomez learned to ride by watching his father, Louie, who was a jockey at many tracks in the Southwest United States. When Gomez was in the tenth grade, he dropped out of school to start his career as a jockey, and began riding at Santa Fe Downs in New Mexico in September 1988, picking up his first victory at that venue aboard Furlong Circle.
After a stint riding on the California Fair Circuit, Gomez switched his tack to the Midwest and rode at Ak-Sar-Ben and Fonner Park in Nebraska. Gomez was the second leading apprentice rider in 1989, racking up 182 winners.
Success In The Midwest
In the mid 1990s, Gomez's career began to take off. He won back-to-back runnings of the Arkansas Derby in 1994 (with Concern) and 1995 (with Dazzling Falls). Two years later, he captured the "Mid-America Triple" at Arlington Park by winning the American Derby, Arlington Classic, and his first Grade I, the Secretariat Stakes, all aboard Honor Glide.
The Move West
After his triumphs in the Midwest, Gomez moved west to California, and was successful right away, as he won the 1998 Hollywood Park Fall Meet riding title. In 1999, Gomez picked up four Grade I victories on the West Coast, as he took the Malibu Stakes with Love That Red, the Santa Maria Handicap with India Divina, the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap with Lord Smith, and the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap with Budroyale.
In 2000, Gomez hooked up with owner Juddmonte Farms, trainer Robert J. Frankel and Skimming, who would give Gomez back-to-back victories in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar. Gomez also took the Grade I Del Mar Debutante Stakes in 2000 aboard Cindy's Hero.
Personal Problems Put Career On Hold
In late 2002, Gomez took time off from riding, as he could not maintain weight and then in July 2003, was arrested for possession of a controlled substance. He was ordered to serve 40 days in jail and enter drug rehabiliation, which he did. Gomez would return to riding in late 2004 as an unfavoured rider on horses not expected to win. However, his tactical racing ability did not go unnoticed as his success rate (although not yet representative of a top rider) was remarkable considering the low quality of his mounts.
Gomez Back On Top
By the end of 2005, not only had Garrett Gomez conquered his personal demons, he was one of the top go-to jockeys in the business and that year was his big break around the racing industry. In 2005, he hooked up with Borrego, who gave him his first victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and his record third victory in the Pacific Classic Stakes, and on the two-year anniversary of his entering rehab, Gomez won two Breeders' Cup events, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Stevie Wonderboy and the Breeders' Cup Mile with Artie Schiller. In addition to those successes, Gomez won the riding title at Hollywood Park in their spring-summer meet.
Another Move Back East
In 2006, jockey John Velazquez was injured in a riding accident at Keeneland, which meant that trainer Todd Pletcher needed a new top rider on the East Coast, and that turned out to be Gomez. Gomez took full advantage of the opportunity, winning 16 stakes races aboard Pletcher-trained horses, including five Grade I races. Thanks in part to those victories, Gomez led the nation in earnings for a jockey with over $20.1 million. He was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for Top Jockey, but was defeated by Edgar Prado.
A Record-Breaking 2007
It would have been hard to top 2006 for Gomez, but in 2007, he did it. He broke Jerry Bailey's record for most stakes victories in a season by winning 76 stakes races, including two Breeders' Cup races, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with undefeated Eclipse Award winner Indian Blessing and the Breeders' Cup Sprint with Midnight Lute.
Early in the year, Gomez was the rider for Rags to Riches, winning the Las Virgenes Stakes, the Santa Anita Oaks and the Kentucky Oaks with her. Unfortunately for Gomez, in the Belmont Stakes, he was booked to ride Hard Spun, which left the mount open on Rags To Riches for John Velazquez to pick up and win with.
Gomez also tied with jockey Victor Espinoza for the riding title at Santa Anita in 2007.
More Records And A Move Back To Southern California
2008 was another fantastic year for Garrett Gomez. He racked up several Grade I victories including his fourth win in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar with Go Between and the $1 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga with Colonel John. Later in the year, Gomez became the first jockey to win three Breeders Cup races on one day as he won the Juvenile with Midshipman, the Sprint with Midnight Lute, and the Dirt Mile with Albertus Maximus. He added a win with Ventura in the Filly and Mare Sprint the day before that to give him a total of four Breeders Cups over the two days, which was another record.
Gomez also had a chance to surpass the record for earnings by a jockey in one season, which is held by Jerry Bailey, but fell just over $10,000 short. It is likely Gomez would've broken the record, but he was injured in a spill at Santa Anita on the final Saturday of 2008 and had to miss the following race card where Proudinsky, who he was scheduled to ride, won the $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap.
Before the start of the Saratoga meet, Gomez moved his tack back to Southern California on a full-time basis, citing the lack of rides he was getting on the New York circuit outside of stakes races. . He has been a fixture at Del Mar, Hollywood Park, and Santa Anita since then, but still rides all over the world when the situation calls for it.
In September 2008 Garrett was Grand Marshal of 13th annual Route 66 Parade in Duarte, California.
2009: Four Straight Earnings Titles
In 2009, Gomez wrapped up his fourth straight earnings title, but needed the last race of the year at Santa Anita to do so. After closing to within a few hundred dollars of leader Julien Leparoux earlier in the card, Gomez was out of mounts for the day until a pick-up ride became available in the final race when Martin Pedroza booked off Julio Canani trainee Cenizo. Gomez rode Cenizo to victory, giving him over $18.5 million in earnings and $10,606 more in earnings than Leparoux. Gomez was also a finalist for the Eclipse Award for Top Jockey, but Leparoux defeated him, ending Gomez's streak of two straight Eclipse Award wins.
Gomez rode four-year-old mare Life Is Sweet to several victories during the year, including the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic, his first victory in that event. Gomez also won two of the most prestigious races in Canada, the Woodbine Mile with Ventura and the Pattison Canadian International with Champs Elysees. Both of those horses are owned by Juddmonte Farms and were trained by the late Bobby Frankel.
One year after having top two-year-old Pioneerof The Nile, who went on to win the Santa Anita Derby and finish second in the Kentucky Derby as a three-year-old, Gomez and trainer Bob Baffert teamed up together with Lookin At Lucky, who was the Eclipse Award winner for top two-year-old juvenile male. Lookin At Lucky won the Del Mar Futurity, the Cashcall Futurity and the Norfolk Stakes, and just missed winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita after drawing the outside post 13.
Garrett Gomez currently resides in Duarte, California with his wife Pam and their children Amanda, Jared, Shelby, and Collin. His jockey agent is Ron Anderson, who previously represented hall-of-fame riders Jerry Bailey and Gary L. Stevens before they retired.
2010: The Move East
In 2010, Gomez decided to move his tack to the East coast, where he would compete at Monmouth Park's Million Dollar Elite Summer Meet. One million dollars in purses will be given away each racing day, making Monmouth Park the richest racing meet in the nation. During Monmouth's dark days, Gomez races in New York at Belmont Park.
- Garett Gomez profile at the NTRA (accessed January 30, 2007)