Garrett Gomez

Garrett Gomez

Anne M. Eberhardt

Garrett Gomez Wins 2011 Woolf Award

Two-time Eclipse Award winner becomes 62nd rider to receive Santa Anita honor.

By a vote of his peers nationwide, jockey Garrett Gomez, a two-time Eclipse Award winner, will become the 62nd recipient of the prestigious Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award.

Gomez, North America’s leading rider by money-won for four consecutive years from 2006-2009, will be presented his award in a winner’s circle ceremony at Santa Anita on Sunday, March 20.

The 39-year-old Gomez outpolled fellow jockeys Joe Bravo, Javier Castellano, Corey Lanerie and Gallyn Mitchell.

Nicknamed “Go-Go” for his hard-charging style, Gomez is considered one of the best finishers in modern racing history. This ability was never more evident than in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6.

Gomez, nursing an injured shoulder, called upon every ounce of his strength and big-money savvy to win the Classic aboard Blame , while fighting off the late charge of the great Zenyatta by mere inches.

“It’s heartwarming to me to see that his peers have acknowledged not only his tremendous professional success, but his triumph over the issues he’s dealt with in his personal life as well,” said Ron Anderson, Gomez’s agent for the past five years.

“He’s just an American success story. He and his family have been through a lot and Garrett has been very upfront in dealing with all of this.  Professionally, his accomplishments speak for themselves. He’s won 12 Breeders’ Cup races over the past six years and nobody in the history of the sport has done that.

“Garrett has come a long, long way personally and professionally and for him to be able to join the fraternity of Woolf Award winners at this stage of his career, it’s got to be one of the crowning achievements in his life.”

The Woolf Award was created to honor and memorialize one of the greatest riders of his era who died soon after a spill at Santa Anita on Jan. 13, 1946. The Woolf trophy is a replica of the full-size statue of the late jockey which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area.

Born Jan. 1, 1972, in Tucson, Arizona, Gomez broke his maiden on Aug. 19, 1988, at Santa Fe Downs in New Mexico. He rode the fair circuit in New Mexico and then extensively in Nebraska, at Fonner Park and Ak-sar-ben.

Gomez’s career began to take off in the mid 1990s as he became well established in the Midwest region of the country. In the midst of this success however, were problems related to substance abuse, resulting in time away from racing in 1995.

Although he was considered one of America’s most talented young jockeys, Gomez’s career went into free-fall in 2002 as a result of drug and alcohol issues. Although he rode for part of that year, he was totally inactive in 2003 and 2004.

However, with the assistance of his former agent Jim Pegram, Gomez returned to full-time riding late in 2004. By the end of 2005, he had clearly established himself as one of the top big-money riders in America. He won his first two Breeders’ Cup races that year, taking the Juvenile with Stevie Wonderboy and the Mile with Artie Schiller.

At the suggestion of retired Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, Gomez hired Anderson in early 2006, a move that no doubt facilitated Gomez’s ascension to the top of his profession. In addition to their four consecutive money-won titles, Gomez and Anderson combined forces to win Eclipse Awards in 2007 and 2008.

Gomez has dealt with his personal problems in a forthright manner and contributed generously -- monetarily and personally -- to charitable causes such as the California-based Winners’ Foundation, which helps people throughout the racing industry.

The jockey resides in nearby Duarte with his wife Pam and children Jared, Amanda, Shelby and Collin.