GOTTA HAVE HER DENIES GOMEZ RECORD TYING BID IN LAS CIENEGAS

ARCADIA, Calif. (April 12, 2009) – Garrett Gomez’s bid to tie Santa Anita’s record of 19 stakes races during a single season was denied on Sunday when 7-10 favorite Tuscan Evening faded to third behind victorious Gotta Have Her in the Grade III, $100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap for fillies and mares at 6 1/2 furlongs over the track’s hillside turf course.

Tyler Baze stole the day’s thunder from the nation’s leading jockey in purse earnings the last three years when he rallied 5-1 shot Gotta Have Her on the far outside to nip Reba Is Tops by a nose. Pace-setter Tuscan Evening wound up another three-quarters-of-a-length behind after having yielded to the latter’s pressure through a swift early pace. The winning time was 1:11.92.

The riding win by Baze was his third straight on the program and provided 5-year-old mare Gotta Have Her with the first graded stakes victory of a career that had included three runner-up finishes in graded competition during her previous five starts.

Gotta Have Her bobbled at the start as British-bred import Tuscan Evening was sent to the lead by Gomez, who had ridden the 4-year-old bay filly to dominant wins in her two earlier stateside starts, both over the hillside turf course.

Reba Is Tops, with Joe Talamo in the saddle, took up the chase through early fractions of 22.02 and 44.02. Baze, meanwhile, kept the winner in the clear on the far outside as she mounted her winning rally for trainer Jenine Sahadi and Green Lantern Stables.

“When she (Gotta Have Her) stumbled coming out of the gate,” said Baze, “I just had to sit there, let her tell me what she wanted to do and point her in the right direction. Jenine said don’t move until you get back on the grass, so I waited until we crossed (the main track). When we hit the grass again, I hit her a few times, and she just flew home. I have all the confidence in this mare. She’s just unbelievable to ride.”

Gotta Have Her, fourth choice in the field of eight, paid $13.40, $6 and $3.20. Reba Is Tops, who turned in a game effort at 16-1, returned $10 and $4.20. Tuscan Evening paid $2.10 to show.

“She ran the same race she has been running,” Gomez said of his mount afterward. “The last couple of races, she’s been able to kind of scoot clear of some of them, coming down the hill a little more comfortable. Today, she had one on her hip the whole way (Reba Is Tops), kind of pushing her along. When I came across the dirt, she went with the other horse, but the other mare just quickened a little more than she could.”

The setback cost Gomez any chance of equaling the Santa Anita stakes record of 19 in a single season that was set by Laffit Pincay Jr. in 1982-83 and tied by Corey Nakatani in 1996-97. The Eclipse Award winner the last two years moved his base to Keeneland earlier this month and does not plan to ride again at the Santa Anita meet that closes on April 19.

With her victory in the 35th running of the Las Cienegas, Gotta Have Her earned $60,000 to lift her career figure to $396,023 from a 6-4-2 record in 18 lifetime starts. “I’m not sure where she’ll go next,” said Sahadi. “I’m savoring this moment.”

Following dark days on Monday and Tuesday, Santa Anita’s final five days of racing will commence on Wednesday with an eight-race program that starts at 1 p.m.

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