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Edited NYRA Staff Release — Apprentice rider Jose Gomez has made a strong impression at the Aqueduct winter meet in his first full year riding.

Heading into Sunday’s card, the 21-year-old Gomez is seventh in the winter meet jockey standings with 18 victories from 110 mounts, finishing in the money at a 41 percent clip.

Gomez said having Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero, Jr. as his agent gave him confidence to compete with a jockey colony that boasts many of the nation’s top riders.

“I’ve always wanted to ride, but I thought I would just start out at a smaller track. I never imagined I would be in New York right away,” Gomez said. “It was a little nerve racking, but if Angel had enough confidence to take me in and he believed in me, I must be doing pretty well.”

Gomez, born in Michigan, grew up around the racetrack with his father working as an exercise rider and his mother as a groom.

He spent much of his childhood moving around from Florida to Kentucky on the racing circuit, but spent most of his time at Penn National. As he got older, he moved to Ocala, Fla., to work for De Meric Stables.

“My parents worked for a lot of different trainers, but I was always around the horses,” Gomez said. “After I graduated school, I went to Ocala to break babies, just learning from the ground up. You’re teaching them and they’re teaching you.”

Before riding professionally, Gomez also was getting on horses for trainer Kelly Breen at Monmouth Park and Palm Meadows in the winter. A broken arm in January 2021 put Gomez’s riding debut on hold, but Breen assisted Gomez in getting back into a routine upon his return.

The Breen-conditioned Top Gun Tommy provided Gomez with his first winner on Oct. 28 at Belmont Park.

“He was putting me on one or two horses every month just so I could get some experience,” Gomez said. “After that, he told me, ‘Let’s go to New York’. He put me on a horse, won easy.”

But it wasn’t until Jan. 6 that Gomez would find the winner’s circle once more, piloting Guns Blazing to victory at the Big A for Oscar Barrera, III. So far this year, Gomez has registered 20 total victories.

Gomez said Breen and Cordero, Jr. have both been highly instrumental to his recent success.

“I have to give a lot of credit to Kelly, he’s the one that brought me over here. I’ve just been learning day-by-day,” Gomez said. “Angel has been teaching me a lot. He’s putting me on the Equicizer, giving me tips and helping me out. Little by little, we’ve been picking things up.

“He’s a Hall of Fame rider, and he’s won over 7,000 races. He’s real smart and sees things in a race that you normally wouldn’t see. The rail is a big thing that Angel tells me. He says to save ground, stick to the rail, and it’s worked out for us so far.”

Gomez visited the winner’s circle twice on Saturday, including a triumph aboard Uno for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher, defeating waiver claiming company by 11 1/4 lengths. He also piloted Dark Money to a ground-saving victory for trainer Rudy Rodriguez later on the program.

“That was a great blessing,” Gomez said of winning for the Hall of Fame trainer. “He normally doesn’t ride apprentices, but he gave me a chance. I was just surprised he put me on such a nice horse who won so easily. I work horses for Rudy in the morning and I’m grateful to be riding for them.”

Cordero, Jr., who took Gomez’s book on the advice of Breen, said he is relishing the opportunity to groom a young rider with plenty of potential.

“A lot of the good jockeys come from the riding school in Puerto Rico, but this kid learned it all in the stable area,” Cordero, Jr. said. “I told him I want to be your agent and your coach, but I also want to be your friend. He’s been doing very, very well.

“Kelly Breen came to Belmont last year at the end of the year and asked me to watch him work a horse,” Cordero, Jr. added. “So, I took him and we won a race for Kelly. We talked strategy and got him on the Equicizer. Kelly has been like a father to him. He’s very supportive and he’s very proud of him.”

Cordero, Jr. said he is particularly impressed with the young rider’s ability to hustle a horse out of the gate.

“A lot of bug boys aren’t as good about coming of the gate, but he is very good out of the gate,” Cordero, Jr. said.

“He’s good when he comes from behind and saves ground. Riding horses is like life – if you save money, you’ll have money; if you save ground, you’ll have horse. This young man is very smart, when he does something wrong, he knows.”

Cordero, Jr. said he would like to take Gomez to Saratoga for the summer meet.

“I took Eric Cancel to Saratoga as a bug boy one year and he did really well,” Cordero, Jr. recalled. “That will open the door for him if he goes to Saratoga. People will ride him when they come back. Wherever he goes, he’s going to be a top rider.”

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