- BAFFERT IN PRIME TIME AT SANTA ANITA AGAIN
- RACING MOURNS PASSING OF GARRETT GOMEZ
- STEVENS TO HAVE HIP REPLACEMENT SURGERY
- BEHOLDER HAPPY, AWAITS SERVICE TO UNCLE MO
- $1 MILLION LATE PICK 4 GUARANTEE OPENING DAY
BAFFERT HAS ARROGATE, DREFONG ON TARGET
Bob Baffert is at it again.
Trainer of the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, American Pharoah in 2015, and winner of three straight Breeders’ Cup Classics, the Hall of Fame member who turns 64 on Jan. 13 conditions the apparent successor to soon-to-be-retired California Chrome’s lengthy reign as master of his domain in Juddmonte Farm’s Arrogate, upset winner of Chrome in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 5.
Baffert is considering the $200,000 San Pasqual Stakes on Jan. 1 for Arrogate, who worked five furlongs Tuesday at The Great Race Place in a bullet 58.40, fastest of 77 drills at the distance. The San Pasqual could lead to the $12 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28.
Baffert also has Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Drefong in good form for the Grade I Malibu Stakes for three-year-olds at seven furlongs on opening day, Dec. 26, not to mention his primary Triple Crown prospect this year, Mastery, winner of last Saturday’s Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity, who could make his three-year-old debut in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 4 or the San Felipe Stakes on March 11.
RETIRED RIDING CHAMP GOMEZ FOUND DEAD IN TUCSON
The racing world Thursday mourned the passing of riding great Garrett Gomez who was found dead Wednesday in his hometown of Tucson, Arizona. According to several media reports, Gomez, who had been living primarily in Tucson the past two years, was discovered dead at a casino/hotel he had checked into on tribal land near Tucson.
Gomez would have been 45 on New Year’s Day.
A remarkable talent who was regarded as perhaps the strongest finisher of his era, Gomez was America’s leading rider by money won four consecutive years, from 2006 through 2009. He was voted America’s Eclipse Award champion jockey in 2007 and 2008 and was selected by a vote of jockeys nationwide as winner of Santa Anita’s George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 2011.
The son of a jockey, Louie Gomez, Garrett last rode at Keeneland in October 2013. He won 3,769 career races and along with agent Ron Anderson, set a single-season record in 2007 by winning 76 added-money races. The following year his mounts accounted for a career high $23,344,351, just $10,000 shy of Jerry Bailey’s all-time single season record.
An avid golfer, Gomez, who along with his second wife, Pam, owned a home in nearby Duarte, is survived by four children, a son, Collin, and a daughter, Shelby, from his first marriage, and by a daughter, Amanda, and son, Jared, from his second.
“It’s sad,” former contemporary Gary Stevens said. “He’s at peace now. He was as good a rider as I’ve ever ridden with, a helluva guy and a helluva competitor. I didn’t like getting beat but when he showed up, he was on his game.
“The ride he put up on Blame (defeating Zenyatta by a dramatic head in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic for her lone defeat), he wasn’t healthy when he rode him. He had fallen and I know he was hurting that day, but that’s the kind of athlete he was. He rose to the occasion and overcame pain and was able to get the job done.”
Added Jerry Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward: “He was a super guy who always took care of the workers at the barn after a win. When Ron Anderson had his book, the day after Garrett won a big race he would always ask for names of the grooms to stake them.”
STEVENS UNDERGOES HIP SURGERY NEXT WEDNESDAY
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens will undergo surgery to have his left hip replaced next Wednesday at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. Winner of more than 5,000 races in North America and a three-time Kentucky Derby winner, the 53-year-old native of Caldwell, Idaho is optimistic things will go well and he eventually can resume his riding career.
“I’m looking forward to getting the old hip out of there and a new one in,” Stevens said Thursday morning at Clockers’ Corner. “I’ve never had any issues on my left side. It’s sort of been the workhorse all of my life.
“I had Perthes disease (a degenerative ailment) in my right hip as a little kid (at age seven) and then the bad knee and everything, and this thing’s always done all the work, but when it went there was no warning, no nothing. About five months ago it started bugging me, and it seemed like overnight it went south and I knew something wasn’t right. Then when I got the X-rays I knew why.”
Asked if he would continue to ride if all went well, Stevens said, “It’s something I’m going to evaluate. It’s too early to say. Even with the outcome (of the surgery), I have to make some decisions. Even if I don’t return to ride competitively, I want to be able to get on horses and be in comfort, but I really don’t know, because this came as such a jolt.
“I was looking forward to opening day at Santa Anita and possibly riding Mor Spirit in the Malibu. When I saw the doctor, I literally was looking to get a routine injection. I’m sitting there and the doctor says, ‘I’ve got a space available next Wednesday,” and I said, ‘For what?’ and he said, ‘replacement. Your hip is gone.’ Then he showed me the X-rays, and I was by myself. My wife (Angie) wasn’t with me.
“He said I could book the surgery date but I said I wanted to talk with my wife first. I did, and when I called her, she said, ‘Just do it.’ When the doctor came back, I said, ‘Let’s do it.'”
FINISH LINES: B. Wayne Hughes, owner of recently retired three-time champion Beholder, was a Clockers’ Corner visitor Thursday and reported the soon-to-be seven-year-old mare doing well at his Spendthrift Farm in Kentucky where she will be bred to Uncle Mo this spring. “I see her every morning and she’s got herself a partner (in another mare),” Hughes said. “They’ve bonded and they can’t get more than two feet from each other. I’m happy and she’s happy. She’s done everything perfectly.” . . . Santa Anita, which will offer a $1 million guaranteed Late Pick 4 on opening day, also will offer $300,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4 pools on Thursdays, Fridays and holiday Mondays (except Opening Day) throughout the Winter/Spring Meet, as well as a guaranteed $500,000 Late Pick 4 and $100,000 Pick 6 on weekends (except Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 5).