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Garrett K. Gomez

Garrett K. Gomez
Induction Year: 
2017
Born: 
Jan. 1, 1972, Tucson, Ariz.
Died: 
Dec. 14, 2016, Tucson, Ariz.
Career Years: 
1988-2013
Number of Mounts: 
21,639
Number of Winners: 
3,769
Winning Percentage: 
17.41%
Earnings: 
$205,224,899.00

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Bio

When the stakes were the highest, Garrett Gomez had few peers.

 

In the biggest events on racing’s biggest stages, Gomez usually found a way to raise his game to heights few have achieved. In the small windows when greatness is defined and races are won or lost, Gomez possessed the rare gifts needed in any moment that are required for victory.

 

Simply stated, he was a natural.

 

In a career that began in 1988 and concluded in 2013, Gomez won 3,769 races and had purse earnings of $205,224,899, which ranked 12th all time when he retired. He earned consecutive Eclipse Awards and won 13 Breeders’ Cup races. For four consecutive years (2006 through 2009), Gomez led all North American riders in purse earnings and set a single-year record with 76 stakes victories in 2007.

 

Born Jan. 1, 1972 in Tucson, Ariz., Gomes learned to ride from his father, Louie, a jockey who competed throughout the Southwest. When he was 16, Gomez dropped out of school to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional rider. He began his career at Santa Fe Downs in New Mexico and rode his first winner there on Aug. 19, 1988 aboard Furlong Circle.

 

After spending some time on the California fair circuit, Gomez wen to the Midwest to ride at Ak-Sar-Ben and Fonner Park in Nebraska. He quickly worked his way up the ranks, winning 182 races in 1989, second-highest among apprentice jockeys.

 

Gomez continued to build his reputation through the mid-1990s, winning back-to-back editions of the Arkansas Derby with Concern (1994) and Dazzling Falls (1995). He won his first Grade 1 in 1997 when he piloted Honor Glide to victory in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park. Gomez was the leading rider at Arlington that year, winning 196 races, the second-highest total in the track’s history.

 

Gomez later became a force on the Southern California circuit, winning four riding titles at Hollywood Park and one each at Santa Anita and Oak Tree. He was also the leading rider at Keeneland’s spring meet in 2010.

 

In 2005, Gomez broke through at the Breeders’ Cup, winning the Mile with Artie Schiller and the Juvenile with Stevie Wonderboy. That year marked the first of four times that Gomez won the Bill Shoemaker Award for the most outstanding performance by a jockey at the Breeders’ Cup. In 2007, Gomez won Breeders’ Cup races with Midnight Lute (Sprint) and Indian Blessing (Juvenile Fillies). He won four Breeders’ Cup races in 2008: The Filly and Mare Sprint (Ventura), Dirt Mile (Albertus Maximus), Juvenile (Midshipman), and a repeat in the Sprint with Midnight Lute. Gomez won the Ladies Classic in 2009 aboard Life is Sweet and in 2010 win the Juvenile Turf (Pluck), Juvenile Fillies Turf (More Than Real) and one of the most memorable editions of the Classic, piloting Blame to an exhilarating victory over Zenyatta.

 

The 2010 Breeders’ Cup victories were even more impressive considering Gomez was riding with an injured shoulder he suffered in a spill only one day before the event at Churchill Downs. Gomez won his 13th and final Breeders’ Cup race in 2012 when he rode Beholder to victory in the Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita.

 

Gomez was at his peak from 2006 through 2009, leading all North American jockeys in earnings each year and earning the Eclipse Award in 2007 and 2008. In 2008, he earned a career-best $23,344,351, only about $10,000 less than the all-time record, which was held by Jerry Bailey at the time. In his 2007 Eclipse Award year, Gomez set the North American record with 76 stakes wins. Thirteen of his wins that year were Grade 1s, including the Kentucky Oaks with Rags to Riches and the Haskell with Any Given Saturday.

 

Other Grade 1 victories for Gomez included the Santa Anita Derby (2009), Pacific Classic (2000, 2001, 2005, 2008), Travers Stakes (2008), Whitney Handicap (2010), Stephen Foster Handicap (2010), Hollywood Derby (2010), Sword Dancer (2010), Woodbine Mile (2007, 2009), Manhattan Handicap (2009), Santa Anita Oaks (2007, 2013), Hopeful Stakes (2006, 2007), Blue Grass Stakes (2006), Del Mar Futurity (2007, 2009), Wood Memorial (2006), Citation Handicap (1998, 2006), Shadwell Turf Mile (2006), Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (2006), American Oaks (2006), Hollywood Turf Cup (2006, 2007), Cigar Mile (2005, 2006), Jockey Club Gold Cup (2005), Del Mar Oaks (2001, 2009), Spinster Stakes (2000, 2007), Vanity Handicap (2011, 2012), Santa Margarita Invitational (2008, 2009, 2011) and Malibu Stakes (1999, 2012), among others. He won a total of 318 graded stakes, including 87 Grade 1s.

 

Gomez began 2013 by riding champion Beholder to victories in the Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks, but he stepped away from the sport later that year and eventually announced his retirement in 2015 via social media.

 

“I would like to thank everyone in the sport of horse racing for all the support I ever received in my career,” Gomez wrote. “I enjoyed every horse I ever rode and I thank them all for making my career. I’d like to apologize to my fans for leaving the sport the way I did. Sometimes you have to do things in life for yourself. I had a lot of awesome moments in this game. Best game in the world.”

 

Gomez died on Dec. 14, 2016 at the age of 44.

 

 

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