It came down to the last race of the year at Santa Anita, but Garrett Gomez notched his fourth straight national purse earnings title on Dec. 31.
Cenizo, the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the eighth race--a mount Gomez picked up when Martin Pedroza “took off” three races earlier--gave the jockey the earnings title when the 4-5 choice scored in an $18,000 maiden claimer. The win earned Gomez $10,800, enabling him to overtake Julien Leparoux by $10,606 in the money race to finish with earnings of $18,571,171 for 2009. Leparoux had earned $18,560,565 before returning to his native France to be with his family for the Christmas holidays.
Gomez joins Laffit Pincay Jr. (1971-74) and Braulio Baeza (1965-68) as riders to have won the money championship four consecutive years. Bill Shoemaker holds the record of seven successive years, 1958 through 1964.
“To have to go down to actually my last mount of the year is unreal,” Gomez said following his 1 1/4-length win aboard Cenizo for trainer Julio Canani. “I was lucky enough to pick up the winner. I was hanging around the (jockeys’) room, hoping to pick up something, and Martin didn’t feel well.”
Earlier, it seemed Gomez had been rebuffed in his title bid when his mount in the second race, Red Arrow, finished last among six entrants in the featured $54,354 optional claiming event at 5 1/2 furlongs.
Gomez’s only other scheduled mount was in the fourth race, and even though 6-5 choice Fund Raiser was a handy winner of the maiden special weight competition, the first prize of $26,400 wasn’t quite enough to overcome the outcome of the second. He had fallen $194 short. Or so it seemed, at the time.
Though he won the last race, Gomez did not have to in order to secure the title. With all starters in California guaranteed $400 per mount, he only had to guide Cezino out of the gate to finish on top.
In reflecting on his best moment of 2009, Gomez said, “It was probably the Woodbine Mile with Ventura. Her race at Woodbine was just phenomenal and at the time, Bobby Frankel (Ventura’s trainer, who died on Nov. 16) was very sick. Ron (agent Ron Anderson) called him, and said Bobby was very happy and that meant a lot to us. Earlier in the week, I had won on Champs Elysees for Bobby. It’s been a great year.”
A two-time reigning Eclipse Award winner as the nation's outstanding jockey, Gomez expressed optimism for 2010. “I feel we can win the title again. We’re on top of our game and we’ve got a lot of really good people supporting us. Some of our big horses have gone by the wayside, so Ron and I are looking to replace some of those horses. It’s a great position to be in.”