Two days after a frightening spill in which he lost several upper front teeth, suffered a gash on his left knee which did not require sutures and a swollen left hand, Garrett Gomez was back in the saddle at Santa Anita Monday in pursuit of Jerry Bailey’s record of $23,354,960 for purse earnings in one year. Gomez won the money title the last two years.
“He rides,” agent Ron Anderson said succinctly when asked the status of Gomez, who is named on five horses today. He took off his scheduled seven mounts Sunday.
Gomez was injured after the 2-year-old colt Back At You veered in during the stretch and hit the rail, unseating Gomez in Saturday’s seventh race. Gomez was taken to Arcadia Methodist Hospital where he was released that night after being treated.
BLACK SEVENTEEN ‘WORKS’ TOWARDS THURSDAY’S EL CONEJO
Black Seventeen is a tiger in the afternoons and a pussycat in the mornings, and that’s OK with Brian Koriner.
As fast as he runs in his races, you won’t see many bullet workouts for Black Seventeen.
“He’s a terrible work horse,” the trainer said of the Florida-bred son of Is It True, who faces four rivals in the Grade III El Conejo Handicap at 5 ½ furlongs on Pro-Ride Thursday, New Year’s Day. “He goes over this track all right, but because of how he goes in the mornings, it’s hard to gauge where he’s at. He’s never been a good work horse.”
Black Seventeen faded to seventh, beaten 13 ½ lengths, in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Oak Tree on synthetic last Oct. 25. Prior to that, he came from off the pace to win the Grade I Vosburgh Stakes on Belmont Park’s conventional dirt track in the slop on Sept. 27.
“He knows the difference between a work and a race, and he doesn’t perform as well in his works,” Koriner continued. “We’ll see what happens (in the El Conejo). We want to redeem ourselves, to see if he can deal with the synthetic. Hopefully, the Breeders’ Cup was a bounce off the New York race . . . hopefully, he’ll have a good showing.”
The 28th El Conejo, which goes as the third race on a 10-race program: Machismo, Mike Smith, 115; Its in God’s Hands, Martin Garcia, 109; Johnny Eves, Garrett Gomez, 119; Black Seventeen, Clinton Potts, 121; and In Summation, Rafael Bejarano, 120.
LETHAL HEAT PREPS FOR SUNSHINE MILLIONS IN SATURDAY’S MONROVIA
Lethal Heat returns to the races in Saturday’s Grade III Monrovia Handicap after an absence of four months. The 4-year-old daughter of the prolific sire Unusual Heat has not raced since running third in the Grade I Del Mar Oaks last Aug. 16.
“She just needed a little break,” trainer Barry Abrams explained. “She’s a really good horse and I wanted to start her fresh at the beginning of the year so I’d have a good horse for the rest of 2009. She’s the best horse I have at this point.” Abrams has 40 horses in training.
“Golden Doc A (winner of the Grade I Las Virgenes Stakes earlier this year) will be back in a few months, but for right now, Lethal Heat is the best one,” said Abrams, who plans to use the Monrovia as a prep for the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff at 1 1/16 miles on Pro-Ride on Jan. 24.
“Lethal Heat got a little break and she deserved it,” Abrams said. “The Sunshine Millions Distaff is a goal. The Monrovia is a prep for that race, and hopefully, she can win. But as long as she comes out of this race in good shape, she’ll be ready for the Millions.”
Lethal Heat, a 4-year-old bay owned by Barry’s brother, David, Madeline Auerbach and Tom Roberts, has six wins and two thirds from nine starts, with earnings of $426,528.
Probable for the 42nd running of the Monrovia, for older fillies and mares at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf: Contentious, no rider; La Tee, Joel Rosario; Lethal Heat, Alex Solis; Ransom Captive, Mike Smith; That’s Hot, no rider; and Trouble Maker, Victor Espinoza.
CHAMBER OF COMMERCE CLIME RETURNS TO SANTA ANITA
Santa Anita is set to usher in the New Year with typical Southern California weather, a welcome change from the recent uncharacteristic cold spell.
Weather.com’s forecast for the Arcadia area today calls for a high near 70 degrees, with calm winds, 32 percent humidity, blue skies and sunshine, and visibility of eight miles.
The forecast is for similar balmy weather through New Year’s Day, Thursday.
FINISH LINES: Navigator, front-running winner of yesterday’s Blue Norther Stakes at one mile on turf under Victor Espinoza, will come back in the Grade I, $300,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile on Pro-Ride Feb. 7. “That’s kind of why I ran her in the Blue Norther, to give her five weeks (between races),” trainer Ron Ellis said. “Plus, it got her around two turns, rather than run her in the seven-furlong Santa Ynez in three weeks (Jan. 17).”
Navigator is a 2-year-old daughter of Stormy Atlantic owned by the Jay Em Ess Stable . . .
Foxysox, nominated to Friday’s $70,000 Paseana Handicap at 1 1/16 miles and next Sunday’s Grade II San Gorgonio Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf, will pass both races in favor of Thursday’s ninth race, a $63,000 allowance test at one mile on turf. “She’s training fabulous,” trainer Carla Gaines said of the English-bred mare owned by Warren Williamson. “We wanted to start her back in this race and then jump into something bigger down the road, hopefully.” Foxysox, winner of the Grade II Santa Barbara Handicap last April 19, has not raced since finishing fourth in the Grade I John C. Mabee Handicap at Del Mar on Aug. 3 . . . Ben Cecil said plans call for High Heel Sneekers to be retired soon after she runs in Sunday’s Grade II San Gorgonio Handicap at 1 1/8 miles on turf. “We just hope to get some black type for her before that,” said the trainer, who also will start Marzelline in the San Gorgonio for older fillies and mares. Bobby Frankel, who posted his 900th career victory at Santa Anita Sunday when Proudinsky won the San Gabriel Handicap, sends out Vacare in the San Gorgonio under Alex Solis . . . Eoin Harty says Santa Anita Derby and Travers winner Colonel John, fourth in the seven-furlong Malibu, will point to either the San Fernando Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 17 or the Strub Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 7. “It could be both or one, I’m not sure,” the trainer said . . ..Richard Mandella reports Grade I winner Into Mischief is scheduled to ship Jan. 7 to owner B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Ky., where the son of Harlan’s Holiday will stand at stud. Into Mischief was second in the final race of his six-race career, the Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26 . . . Renton, Washington native Lindsey Molina, 22-year-old daughter of trainer Mark Molina, rode in her first race last Friday, finishing sixth aboard 53-1 shot Cubs Molina . . . Santa Anita is dark Tuesday, but resumes racing Wednesday, New Year’s Eve day. First post time is 1 p.m.