11/12/2007 12:00AM

Gomez at 71 and counting

EmailINGLEWOOD, Calif.-Garrett Gomez established a single-season record of 71 stakes wins in North America on Sunday when he won the Moccasin Stakes at Hollywood Park on Spring Awakening.

Gomez will spend the next seven weeks seeing how far he can extend the mark.

With a crowded stakes schedule over Thanksgiving weekend, and a flurry of stakes at the end of the Hollywood Park fall meeting and the start of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting in December, Gomez has a chance to approach 80 stakes wins before the end of the year.

“I think that another six or eight is feasible,” said Ron Anderson, Gomez’s agent. “Eighty would be a good target.”

Gomez made the most of limited opportunities over the weekend, sweeping the two stakes at Hollywood Park. On Saturday, he tied Jerry Bailey’s 2003 record of 70 stakes wins aboard Hucking Hot in the Audrey Skirball-Kenis Stakes.

When he won aboard Spring Awakening, Gomez pumped his fist in the air in celebration. As Gomez rode Spring Awakening into the winner’s circle, he carried a sign that honored his 71st stakes win.

“It didn’t set in until I was about there,” Gomez said of the win aboard Spring Awakening. “It was a nice feeling. It’s nice to have a record in your name.”

Gomez, 35, will have a better idea of how far he can extend the record after Thanksgiving weekend.

For four days, from Nov. 22-25, he rides stakes on three circuits, according to Anderson. On Thanksgiving Day, he rides Panty Raid in the $300,000 Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs. The next day, he will return to California to ride Shakis in the $400,000 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park. Then, it’s back in the air for a cross-country flight to ride Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Midnight Lute in the $300,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 24. On Sunday, Nov. 25, Gomez is back at Hollywood Park to partner Wait a While in the $500,000 Matriarch Stakes and Twilight Meteor in the $500,000 Hollywood Derby.

The idea that Gomez could surpass Bailey’s record crossed Anderson’s mind earlier this year, after Gomez began the year with an excellent run of success at Santa Anita. When Gomez left Santa Anita in late March to ride at Keeneland, he had already amassed 15 stakes wins at a time of the year when stakes are not as plentiful as the summer and fall.

Anderson knew what it would take to reach the milestone. He was Bailey’s agent in 2003.

He first mentioned the milestone to Gomez in Kentucky in the spring, and began to take further notice of the record after Gomez had 11 stakes wins through the country in August.

“I told him when we went to Keeneland, ‘Listen to me. We have a chance to break this record,’” Anderson said. “He looked at me like I was crazy, just some agent talking bull. It all worked out.”

Gomez says he has confidence in Anderson’s judgment in arranging his mounts.

“His job is to think,” he said, “and mine is to ride.”