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.
The move west
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 hooked up with owner Juddmonte Farms, trainer Robert J. Frankel and Skimming, 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. He was able to regain his previous success, and by the end of 2005, not only had he conquered his personal demons, he was one of the top go-to jockeys in the business. In 2005, he hooked 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. In addition to those successes, 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 top rider on the East Coast, and that turned out to be Gomez. Gomez took full advantage of the opportunity, winning 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, but was defeated by Edgar Prado.
A record-breaking 2007
It would have been hard to top 2006, but in 2007, Gomez did. He 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. Unfortunately for Gomez, 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.
He won the Eclipse Award for the Outstanding Jockey again in 2008 and was a finalist for that award in both 2009 and 2010, and wound up winning four straight earnings titles until that streak was snapped in 2010. In 2008, Gomez 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.
In 2010 Gomez picked up his biggest win to date when he won the Breeders' Cup Classic with Blame, handing champion mare Zenyatta her first 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 has also won some prestigious races outside of the United States in the last few years. At Woodbine Racetrack in Ontario, Canada, he has 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 has also won two big races in Dubai, the Godolphin Mile in 2007 and the Dubai Golden Shaheen in 2010.
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.
Departure & retirement from horse racing
Gomez suffered a relapse in his fight against alcoholism in 2013 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 . BEST GAME IN THE WORLD. THANK YOU HORSE RACING."
Garrett Gomez currently resides in Duarte, California with his wife Pam and their children Amanda and Jared. Garrett's children from his first marriage are Shelby and Collin.
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- Garett Gomez profile at the NTRA (accessed January 30, 2007)
- January 21, 2008 NTRA article titled Gomez tops big year with Eclipse