Glen Hill Farm's Dilemma picked his first win since November 2008 with a perfectly timed ride from birthday boy Garrett Gomez in Santa Anita's $100,000 Daytona Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the hillside turf course Jan. 1 (VIDEO).
Gomez, who turned 39, helped provide Dilemma with his first graded stakes win after doing the same for Spring Style in the $150,000 Robert J. Frankel Stakes (gr. IIT) a few races earlier on the card.
Trained by Tom Proctor, the 7-year-old Dilemma had just four starts in 2009-10 and had not been to the winner's circle since taking an allowance race at Hollywood Park more than two years ago. Gomez was also aboard for that victory.
The Leonard Lavin-owned son of Grand Slam made his initial start on the unique hillside course in the Daytona and he defeated Quick Enough by 1 1/4 lengths while completing the about 6 1/2-furlong distance in a solid 1:12.28.
“I really didn’t know what to expect from him," Gomez said. "I tried to get him involved and get him to do something. I tried to stay as close with him as much as he was willing, without taking away from his run. He put himself in a decent spot, but he kind of worried me when we first crossed the dirt. When I got him outside, he came home well and finished really good."
Gomez saved ground with Dilemma in fifth position into the stretch, then angled to the outside for the drive. Dilemma collared favored Regally Ready past the eighth pole under left-handed urging and held Quick Enough at bay in the final strides to register an 8-1 upset.
"I thought he might like the distance, but I was worried about him coming down the hill," Proctor said. "I’ve had a lot of luck with Gomez. We’re about 45 percent (winning races) together the last year. I don’t know what we’re doing together, but we’ve sure been lucky everywhere we went.”
Quick Enough, ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, also bid willingly in the lane but had to settle for second, a half-length better than the 2-1 choice Regally Ready, with Joel Rosario aboard.
Second choice Dance With Gable, looking to improve his career mark to four-for-four on the hillside, set a rapid early clip, cutting the first quarter in a sizzling :21.38 and the half-mile in :43.53, but was overtaken by Regally Ready approaching mid-stretch and faded to last in the field of seven.
Dilemma, who earned $60,000, improved his career mark to 6-5-3 in 22 starts while banking $366,656. Twin Hopes Farm bred the chestnut horse, who is out of the Tabasco Cat mare Heavenly Cat, in Kentucky.
Sent off as the fifth choice, Dilemma carried 118 pounds and paid $19.60, $7, and $4.60. Quick Enough, the winner of Oak Tree's Morvich Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Hollywood Park in October, returned $4.40 and $3.40 as the 123-pound high weight. The exacta was worth $73.20. Regally Ready, in his stakes debut for trainer Steve Asmussen, paid $3.20 to show.
It was a half-length to the late-running Afleet Ruler in fourth. He was followed by Quietly Mine, Sirocco Strike, and Dance With Gable.