What began as an inauspicious comeback has turned into familiar fare for Southern California jockey Garrett Gomez.
The 32-year-old jockey is winning on a regular basis again after being sidelined almost two years battling the demons of substance abuse. He won two races Wednesday, giving him six for the meet and at least one on each of the last four days, tying him for fifth in the standings.
"I'm excited being back in the mainstream," said the Phoenix native. "I was out from Dec. 12, 2002 until Sept. 10 of this year when I started back at Fairplex Park. I had taken off before in my career for about nine months in 1994 or 1995, but this go-round, as far as what I went through, has been very beneficial. Now I can identify with myself a little more and I'm learning about myself. Some things I do seem normal to me but they really aren't so normal."
Gomez's ballooned 30 pounds over his riding weight during his rehabilitation.
"I got up to about 147 pounds," Gomez said. "I wasn't doing anything, just lying around, and when I stepped on the scale and saw that number I kind of freaked. I had never been that big in my life. I was going through depression and experiencing mood swings, so I would eat. Coupled with not exercising and not getting on any horses, I had no life, really. I wore pants so big I never dreamed I would wear anything that size.
"Once I started moving around and exercising and being a member of society again I dropped down to about 130 pounds quick. Then I slowly got down to my riding weight and breathed a big sigh of relief."
"The first day I rode again I stepped on the scale and did 117," he said. "The scale hit exactly where I had hoped and that was without riding a race yet."
All it took was time and motivation, and it's paying off.
"His attitude has been terrific," said his new agent, Jim Pegram.