Garrett K. Gomez
Gomez learned to ride by watching his father, Louie, who was a jockey at many tracks in the Southwest United States. When Gomez was in the tenth grade, he dropped out of school to start his career as a jockey, and began riding at Santa Fe Downs in New Mexico in September 1988, picking up his first victory at that venue aboard Furlong Circle.
After a stint riding on the California Fair Circuit, Gomez switched his tack to the Midwest and rode at Ak-Sar-Ben and Fonner Park in Nebraska. Gomez was the second leading apprentice rider in 1989, racking up 182 winners.
In the mid 1990s, Gomez's career began to take off. He won back-to-back runnings of the Arkansas Derby in 1994 (with Concern) and 1995 (with Dazzling Falls). Two years later, he captured the "Mid-America Triple" at Arlington Park by winning the American Derby, Arlington Classic, and his first Grade I, the Secretariat Stakes, all aboard Honor Glide.
After his triumphs in the Midwest, Gomez moved west to California, and was successful right away, as he won the 1998 Hollywood Park Fall Meet riding title. In 1999, Gomez picked up four Grade I victories on the West Coast, as he took the Malibu Stakes with Love That Red, the Santa Maria Handicap with India Divina, the Frank E. Kilroe Mile Handicap with Lord Smith, and the Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap with Budroyale.
In 2000, Gomez rode Skimming, owned by Juddmonte Farms and trained by Robert J. Frankel, who would give Gomez back-to-back victories in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar. Gomez also took the Grade I Del Mar Debutante Stakes in 2000 aboard Cindy's Hero.
Legal troubles and return
After battling substance abuse issues and serving jail time in 2003, Gomez returned to riding in 2004. In 2005, he paired up with Borrego, who gave him his first victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and his record third victory in the Pacific Classic Stakes, and on the two-year anniversary of his entering rehab, Gomez won two Breeders' Cup events, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Stevie Wonderboy and the Breeders' Cup Mile with Artie Schiller. Gomez won the riding title at Hollywood Park in their spring-summer meet.
Then in 2006, jockey John Velazquez was injured in a riding accident at Keeneland, which meant that trainer Todd Pletcher needed a new lead rider on the East Coast, and turned to Gomez. Gomez won 16 stakes races aboard Pletcher-trained horses, including five Grade I races. Thanks in part to those victories, Gomez led the nation in earnings for a jockey with over $20.1 million. He was a finalist for the Eclipse Award for the Outstanding Jockey, which was ultimately won that year by Edgar Prado.
Like most jockeys, Gomez also suffered multiple injuries throughout his career.
In 2007, Gomez broke Jerry Bailey's record for most stakes victories in a season by winning 76 stakes races, including two Breeders' Cup races, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies with undefeated Eclipse Award winner Indian Blessing and the Breeders' Cup Sprint with Midnight Lute.
Early in the year, Gomez was the rider for Rags to Riches, winning the Las Virgenes Stakes, the Santa Anita Oaks and the Kentucky Oaks with her. In the Belmont Stakes, he was booked to ride Hard Spun, which left the mount open on Rags To Riches for John Velazquez to pick up and win with.
Gomez also tied with jockey Victor Espinoza for the riding title at Santa Anita in 2007.
Gomez earned his 3,000th win aboard Hyperbaric in the Oak Tree Mile on September 28, 2008. He won four races at the Breeders' Cup and was again the leading jockey by nationwide earnings. He had a chance to surpass the record for earnings by a jockey in one season, which is held by Jerry Bailey, but fell just over $10,000 short. It is likely Gomez would've broken the record, but he was injured in a spill at Santa Anita on the final Saturday of 2008 and had to miss the following race card where Proudinsky, who he was scheduled to ride, won the $150,000 San Gabriel Handicap. He won his second Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2008.
In 2009, Gomez won his fourth straight earnings title in a close contest with Julien Leparoux that was only decided when Gomez won the last race of the year at Santa Anita aboard Cenizo. "To have to go down to actually my last mount of the year is unreal," said Gomez. "I was lucky enough to pick up the winner. I was hanging around the jockeys' room hoping to pick up something and Martin (Pedroza, the regular rider of Cenizo) didn't feel well."
In 2010 Gomez picked up his biggest win to date when he won the Breeders' Cup Classic with Blame, handing champion mare Zenyatta her only loss in the process. That marked his third Breeders' Cup win of the weekend, despite the fact he was injured in a spill just a day before the two-day Breeders' Cup program. Gomez also won the Stephen Foster Handicap and the Whitney Handicap with Blame, helping the horse get the Eclipse Award for American Champion Older Male Horse. Gomez also won his first riding title at Keeneland Race Course during the spring meet.
Gomez also won some major races outside of the United States. At Woodbine Racetrack in Ontario, Canada, he won the Woodbine Mile in both 2007 and 2009; the Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup Turf in 2008; the Canadian International Stakes in 2009, and the Nearctic Stakes and Summer Stakes in 2010. He also won two big races in Dubai, the Godolphin Mile in 2007 and the Dubai Golden Shaheen in 2010.
In 2011, he received the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award from his peers. "He's just an American success story," said his agent Ron Anderson. "He and his family have been through a lot and Garrett has been very upfront in dealing with all of this. Professionally, his accomplishments speak for themselves. He's won 12 Breeders' Cup races over the past six years and nobody in the history of the sport has done that."
In May 2012, he teamed up with Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award winner Rudolph Alvarado to write The Garrett Gomez Story: A Jockey's Journey Through Addiction & Salvation. The book captures the story behind Gomez' lifelong struggle to overcome his addiction to alcohol and drugs. Gomez rode Beholder to victory in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, his thirteenth win at the Breeders' Cup.
2013 and retirement from horse racing
Gomez started 2013 by guiding the filly to victories in the Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks. However, he suffered a relapse in his fight against alcoholism in the summer and missed time from the saddle as a result. He returned later in the year at Del Mar and also made appearances at Belmont and Woodbine, but he then left again during the fall meet at Keeneland.
On June 8, 2015 Gomez announced his retirement from horse racing on his Facebook page. He said, "I would like to thank everyone in the sport of horse racing for all the support I ever received in my career. I enjoyed every horse I ever rode and I thank all of them for making my career. I'd like to apologize to all my fans for leaving the sport the way I did. Sometimes you have to do things in life for yourself. I'd like everyone to know I'm officially retired from the sport of horse racing. I thank everyone for all I achieved that had a part in my career. I had a lot of awesome moments in this game."
In 2013, Garrett Gomez's wife, Pamela Gomez, filed for divorce in the Pasadena Superior Court in California. Pamela Gomez was represented by attorney Jeffery L. Heath of Newport Beach, CA, and Garrett Gomez was represented by attorney Scott Kosner of The Kosner Firm in Los Angeles, CA. The divorce was never finalized, however, due to Garrett Gomez's death on December 14, 2016, from an apparent drug overdose in his hotel room at the Casino Del Sol Hotel in Tucson, AZ.
Dr. Gregory Hess, Chief Medical Examiner in Pima County, AZ, ruled the death an accident. The autopsy report, released Feb. 8, 2017, by the Forensic Science Center in Pima County, Arizona stated that Garrett K. Gomez died in December with six different “drugs of abuse” in his system and that a diseased heart muscle also contributed to the “accident” of his death. “In consideration of the known circumstances surrounding this death and the examination of the remains, the cause of death is ascribed to a methamphetamine intoxication with cardiomyopathy contributing to his demise,” wrote forensic pathologist Cynthia Porterfield.
The autopsy report went on to state that “a clear plastic baggie containing white powder” was found near his body, and that first-responders tried to revive him using electrocardiograph stimulation prior to Gomez being pronounced dead at 2:47 p.m.
Blood tests on Gomez came back positive for cocaine, morphine, two types of amphetamines, benzodiazepines (central nervous system tranquilizers), and marijuana. He did not have any traces of alcohol in his system.
There were no signs of trauma, and the report described Gomez's body as that of “a normally developed, well-nourished” male of 150 pounds whose body features “appear compatible with the reported age of 44 years.”
Gomez's body was cremated shortly after the completion of the autopsy.
In August 2017, Garrett Gomez was posthumously inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame.
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- "Garrett Gomez Profile". www.equibase.com. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- "Jockey Garrett Gomez Dies at Age 44". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- "Keeneland Bio - Garrett Gomez" (PDF). keeneland.com. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- "Gomez Recuperating After Surgery". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- "Gomez Tops Big Year with Eclipse". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- "3,000 For Gomez; Hyperbaric Takes Mile". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- "Proudinsky takes San Gabriel | the-racehorse.com". www.the-racehorse.com. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- "Jockey Eclipse Award: Garrett Gomez". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- Godfrey, Nicholas. "USA Last gasp title for Gomez as Asmussen hits 650 | Horse Racing News | Racing Post". www.racingpost.com. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- Mitchell, Eric. "Heartbreaking Thriller: Blame Beats Zenyatta". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- "2010 Eclipse Awards: Jockey". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- "Garrett Gomez Wins 2011 Woolf Award". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved 15 December 2016.
- Novak, Claire. "Garrett Gomez Announces Retirement". BloodHorse.com. Retrieved 15 December 2016.