NGLEWOOD, Calif. (Nov. 22, 2008) — Garrett Gomez capped a four-win afternoon as Johnny Eves gained the lead from gritty pacesetter Wiredfortwotwenty in deep stretch and held late-charging Northern Solider at bay to win the $108,400 Vernon O. Underwood by one length Saturday at Hollywood Park.

Gomez, headed for his third straight title as the nation’s leading money-winning jockey, made no mistakes as he had Johnny Eves in perfect stalking position through the first half-mile. As the field turned for home, Johnny Eves moved up on the outside of Wiredfortwotwenty and Bob Black Jack and proved best in the lane, covering six furlongs on Cushion Track in 1:07.90.

Northern Soldier, stablemate of the pacesetter, beat 2-1 favorite Noble Court by a nose to garner second money in the Grade III event. Wiredfortwotwenty was just another nose back in fourth, while second choice Bob Black Jack finished fifth in his first start since finishing 16th in the Kentucky Derby.

Gomez, whose mounts have earned more than $22 million in 2008, earned his first Eclipse Award in 2007 as the nation’s outstanding jockey and could be headed for another.

"My main concern was that when I saw him in the paddock he was really on the muscle.” Gomez said. “He's a horse who's his own worst enemy because he's over aggressive and wants to do too much early. Being on the outside my main concern was just trying to get him to shut off somewhere and listen to me just for a little ways, and he did, and it helped him get there today. He's really fast and I was just trying to take some of that speed away from him to get him to stretch out a little bit."
Johnny Eves snapped a seven-race winless streak while connecting for the first time since registering an 11-1 upset in the Grade I Malibu on opening day of the Santa Anita winter/spring meet. The Jay Robbins trainee went off as the third choice and paid $9, 4.80 and $3. Northern Soldier returned $11.80 and $5, while the show payoff on Noble Court was $2.80.

“I was disappointed in his first two races back and then he showed a resemblance of himself in the Cal Cup,” Robbins said. “I thought running him around two turns he would get away from horses at Del Mar and maybe he’d be a lot better off, but that was a total disaster. I think sprinting is probably his forte — seven-eights might be the best.”

The California-bred son of Skimming earned $68,400, boosting his bankroll to $485,120. He has won six of 18 starts.