It was only the fourth start this year for the injury-prone son of Cee’s Tizzy following three races each of the preceding two years, but, as the even-money favorite, Lucky J.H. responded with his usual gutsy performance after an eighth-month layoff to care for quarter cracks.
The final time was 1:13.55. With the winning purse of $59,130, Lucky J.H.’s earnings reached $629,885 from an 8-3-4 record in 18 starts for trainer Carla Gaines.
In capturing his fourth career stakes victory, Lucky J.H. paid $4, $3.20 and $2.40 New Zealand-bred Majestic Diamond, ridden by Julien Couton, returned $6 and $4.40 while the show price on Hewitts, with Joe Talamo aboard, was $4.40.
“I love this horse,” said winning jockey Espinoza. “He takes a break, and he comes back running. He’s all horse, and he’s all heart. He loves to run.” “He’s such a pleasure,” said Gaines.
Owner-breeder Harris said they would target the Jan. 24 Sunshine Millions at Santa Anita with Lucky J.H. “Either the six furlong race ($300,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint) on synthetic,” said Harris, “or the 1 1/8 miles race ($500,000 Sunshine Millions Turf) on the grass.”
Garrett Gomez, the nation’s leading rider in money-earned, returned to action with a victory earlier in the program after being injured in a spectacular spill at Santa Anita on Saturday when his mount, Back At You, veered into the rail during the Eddie Logan Stakes for 2-year-olds.
The incident left Gomez with several missing teeth, a gashed knee and swollen thumb, but he came back to ride Suit Yourself to victory in Monday’s third race, his first of four mounts as he continued to pursue Jerry Bailey’s record purse earnings for a single year, $23,354,960, set in 2003.
Gomez, who turns 37 on New Year’s Day, began the afternoon trailing Bailey by $109,014. After adding a win aboard Trainspotting in the fifth race, he narrowed the difference to $79,454. He will not ride Tuesday when Santa Anita is dark, but has four scheduled mounts on Wednesday, New Year’s Eve. Included is Baroness Thatcher in the $70,000 Kalookan Queen Handicap.