Gomez, who turns 37 on New Year’s Day, was conscious and moving his extremities after being placed on a stretcher following the sudden action of his mount, who was leading in mid-stretch. Back At You, making his third career start, appeared to duck into the rail when moving into a shadow of the grandstand overhang on a sunny afternoon.
According to his agent, Ron Anderson, Gomez had several teeth knocked out, sustained a gash on his left knee and a swollen left hand. It was not immediately known if he would be held in the hospital overnight where he continued to undergo x-rays, according to Anderson. It remained unclear if he would be able to ride again before year’s end.
The incident, one race prior to the featured Grade I, $250,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, allayed focus from Indian Blessing’s expected triumph in an event that could have enhanced her quest for a second Eclipse Award.
John Velazquez rode Indian Blessing, 2007’s 2-year-old filly champion, to her sixth victory of 2008 after she was upset by Ventura when second as the 9-5 favorite in October’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.
The daughter of Indian Charlie, never worse than second in 12 career starts that include nine victories, defeated 47-1 longshot Ginger Pop by 1½ lengths with Bsharpsonata another nose back in the field of seven.
The 36th running of the La Brea was marred by an injury to front-running Indyanne, who took a bad step and was pulled up nearing mid-stretch. Jockey Russell Baze was not injured. Indyanne fractured her left front sesamoid, according to track veterinarian, Dr. Jill Bailey. This daughter of Indian Charlie, trained by Greg Gilchrist for John Sikura, was returned to her barn for private examination. Dr. Bailey said there was a possibility the gray filly might be saved.
Following the examination in his stable, Gilchrist was optimistic. “It looks like she’s going to be saved,” he said. “The good part is the outside sesamoid is perfect and she tore very few ligaments. Her chance for recovery is 65-35 to be just fine as a broodmare. She’ll have surgery in the next three days. This could have been a lot worse.’”
“This was a bittersweet win,” said Bob Baffert, who trains Indian Blessing. “I’m very sad about what happened to the other filly. My filly ran much better today than she ran in the Breeders’ Cup.”
Racing in second, Indian Blessing tracked Indyanne through moderate fractions of 22.52 and 45.06. Velazquez sent her to the lead as they passed the six-furlong mark in 1:08.59. The winning time was 1:20.59.
“I didn’t want her to go head-and-head with the other horse (Indyanne),” said Velazquez, “so I took a pretty good hold away from the gate. When she made the lead, she was waiting on those other horses, but she ran awesome.”
After wining a record sixth La Brea victory, Baffert did not speculate on Indian Blessing’s chances of winning an Eclipse Award for either champion 3-year-old filly or champion female sprinter. “We just ran in this race because the filly enjoys running,” he said.
The victory elevated the by homebred filly’s overall record to 9-3-0 in 12 starts for Hal and Patti Earnhardt. The winning purse of $150,000 increased her career earnings to $2,437,200. She has posted a 6-3-0 record in nine starts this year for earnings of $1,080,000.
Following the incident in the Eddie Logan, Flashmans Papers went on to score by one-half length over 17-10 favorite Kelly Leak in the one-mile turf event with Congor Bay a neck back in third. The winning time was 1:36.61
A British import owned by trainer Doug O’Neill’s brother, Dennis, the bay colt was making his second start for the pair and was ridden by Rafael Bejarano. He paid $14.20 to win and earned $45,870 to increase his career bankroll to $150,180 from a 3-0-2 record in eleven starts.
Gomez moved $75,000 closer to Bailey’s record earlier in the afternoon.
Freshened following a fourth-place finish in October’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, Saucey Evening returned to action over the Pro-Ride surface to run away with the 29th running of the $125,000 California Breeders’ Champion Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.
Gomez rallied the even-money favorite from last in a field of seven to win going away while traversing seven furlongs in 1:21.84, faster than her male counterparts’ clocking in the previous day’s division won by All Saint in 1:22.07.
Saucey Evening finished 2½ lengths in front of Spanish Ice, who overtook pacesetter Ten Churros by 1½ lengths. The winner paid $4, $3 and $2.20. Spanish Ice, the longest shot in the field at 22-1 with David Flores aboard, returned $13 and $5. The show price on Ten Churros, ridden by Velazquez, was $2.80.
“She’s just getting better and better,” Gomez said in the winner’s circle. “She’s settling much better now. She’s really advanced off of her last race here in the Breeders’ Cup. She did everything perfect today. I couldn’t have asked her to do any better.”
The victory was the third in six starts for the daughter of More Than Ready, who is trained by H. Graham Motion and was bred by Betty and Larry Mabee. Saucey Evening’s winnings of $75,000 boosted her career total to $250,390.
Santa Anita’s 84-day meet moves into its third day on Sunday with the featured $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap, a Grade II stakes race at 1 1/8 miles on turf. First post for the nine-race card is at 12:30 p.m.