Headed by Garrett Gomez, the winner of the last two Eclipse Awards as well as the last three national money-winning titles, and supplemented by a strong supporting cast that includes returning seaside riding champ Rafael Bejarano and runner-up Joel Rosario, Del Mar will field one of its strongest jockey colonies ever for its 70th summer season opening Wednesday, July 22.

On his way to the 2008 Eclipse and money title, Gomez finished fourth at the seaside course with 34 wins from 160 mounts, scoring at a noteworthy 21 percent clip. He also won his record fourth Pacific Classic when he guided Horse of the Meeting Go Between to a neck victory.

Bejarano, the Peruvian who registered his 2,000th victory in just seven years in the saddle late in the current Hollywood Park meeting, was a comfortable winner at Del Mar in 2008 with 45 victories, nine more than Rosario. Rosario, who hails from the Dominican Republic, appears likely to finally catch Bejarano and end his remarkable run of six straight Southern California meet riding titles as the ongoing Hollywood Park session races to a finish.

Among the other stalwart regulars, Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith and multiple Hall of Fame nominee Alex Solis have posted more than 9,000 career victories between them. Jockeys David Flores, Aaron Gryder, Corey Nakatani, Martin Pedroza (and Gomez) are each over the 3,000 mark in wins, while Victor Espinoza now has more than 2,600 victories. Nakatani and Espinoza both have won three local riding titles, Solis has earned a pair and Flores has one to his credit.

In addition, Nakatani is poised to move into second place on Del Mar’s all-time list of stakes winners. He is tied for third place with riding legends Bill Shoemaker and Eddie Delahoussaye with 94 stakes wins, just one behind the legendary Laffit Pincay, Jr. Chris McCarron leads the list with 134 stakes triumphs.

Also on the 2009 jockey roster are former Del Mar champion Michael Baze and his cousin, the former Eclipse apprentice rider Tyler Baze, who finished third on last year’s local riding list; rising star Joseph Talamo, also a former apprentice Eclipse champion; talented Martin Garcia and rock-solid journeymen Danny Sorenson and Jose Valdivia Jr., both of whom are in the 1,000-plus-win club.