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Garrett Gomez has tied Jerry Bailey’s mark of 70 stakes winners in a year and is a cinch to win this year’s Eclipse Award as top jockey. Since returning West, he clearly is the dominant rider on the Southern California circuit. He is in perfect position every time, never makes a mistake, always finds the hole and finishes stronger than any rider in the room (see today’s victories aboard DESERT SEA and HUCKING HOT). Simply put, he towers over the rest of the current colony.

Since coming back on Oct. 28 (after winning two Breeders’ Cup races and being voted the Shoemaker Award as the day’s outstanding rider), Gomez has won with 14 of 44 mounts (32%). He rattled off eight wins from 11 mounts in his first three days at Oak Tree. Of his 14 victories, three each have been for trainers John Sadler and Jack Carava. However, he’s racked up single wins for another eight different trainers (Shulman, Frankel, Canani, Sise, Becerra, Clement, O’Neill and Gallagher). Basically his agent, Ron Anderson, gets him on the best mounts, regardless of which barn. But as handicappers and gamblers, how do we treat him?

Since riding double-digit winners ($12.60 and $10.60) in his first two mounts at Oak Tree, the public has jumped all over the Gomez bandwagon. In 12 subsequent wins (10 favorites), the highest payoff has been $7.40 on HUCKING HOT in today’s stakes. His 14 winners have returned $88 (average win payoff of $6.29), which means a $2 bet on every one of his 44 mounts breaks you exactly even. The moral of the story? Betting on Gomez gets you a flawless ride on a high percentage of winners, usually while on the best horse. Just don’t expect to get rich along the way.

NOTES: Today’s Pick Six returned $210,750 to five winning ticket holders. There were three winning favorites in the sequence, and longshot BUSHWACKER ($24.60) was the only really hard one to come up with. But it would be very interesting to know how many potential winning tickets went down the tubes when favorite ZETTERBERG reared in the gate and was subsequently scratched from the 6th race. Those not using an alternate selection got first-time starter SIGNATURE MOVE, who ran a non-threatening third. Eventual winner WIND’S LEGACY did get knocked down to 5-2 after the scratch (8-1 morning line) but he had been soundly defeated by Zetterberg in their last meeting, meaning most players would have gone looking elsewhere when it came to an alternate. Just shows you, there are lots of ways to get beat in this game. Despite singing the praises of Gomez throughout this posting, he still trails resurgent Tyler Baze by one winner while tied for second with Joe Talamo after four days…the HP Cushion Track is my favorite of the three synthetic surfaces in SoCal. It plays fair to all runners and the times more closely resemble a conventional dirt track (Del Mar’s Polytrack is too slow and Santa Anita’s Cushion Track is too fast)…speaking of Santa Anita, sprinklers were turned on to the main track on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in an attempt to simulate rainy conditions. Officials and workers seemed to be working on drainage issues in a couple of spots through the stretch. I thought these were “all weather” tracks…trainer J.C. Green sent out of a pair of winners in the last two days. Doubt she’s celebrating at the Derby, however.

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