12/30/2008 12:00AM

Gomez back to winning ways


ARCADIA, Calif. - Sunday morning, the day after Garrett Gomez fell heavily in a one-horse spill at Santa Anita and less than 12 hours after he was released from the hospital, the jockey wanted to go to the racetrack and get on a few horses to test his condition.

Second thoughts kept him at home.

"I couldn't move my hand too well and I didn't have any teeth," he said.

Gomez lost three of his upper teeth and was suffering from a swollen left hand and a gash on his knee as a result of a spill in the Eddie Logan Stakes. His mount, Back at You, tried to jump the inside rail of the turf course, causing Gomez to fall heavily. Back at You suffered a gash on a leg but was not seriously injured.

Gomez put off his comeback until Monday and returned to ride two winners on the nine-race program.

"Winning helps everything," Gomez said. "It gives you energy and fight."

That sort of commitment has left Gomez atop the nation's jockeys in purse earnings for the second consecutive year in 2008. Also, he is a top contender to win the Eclipse Award as the outstanding jockey of 2008 for the second consecutive year. The award will be presented in Miami on Jan. 26.

After riding Monday, Gomez was looking for a normal day off on Tuesday before resuming riding Wednesday.

"My hand is still a little blown up," he said after his last of four rides on Monday. "I was a little questionable this morning because my hand wasn't working well. I taped it. I hit horses left-handed. It's not 100 percent."

In the moments after the fall, Gomez feared he would miss far more than just one day.

"I've hit the ground a lot easier than that and been more sore," he said. "I thought I might be out for a couple of weeks."

Before he left the hospital, Gomez told his agent, Ron Anderson, he would be back before his 37th birthday on Thursday. Gomez spent 4 1/2 hours in a dentist's chair on Sunday, replacing crowns that were installed in 1991 because of a spill.

"I live in a dentist's chair," he said.

Lucky J.H. wins in return

Lucky J.H. was galloping away from the Santa Anita grandstand toward the hillside turf course before Monday's $92,070 Impressive Luck Handicap when trainer Carla Gaines assessed the physical condition of the 6-year-old horse.

"He's fat as a little pig," she said. "A race doesn't take a pound off of him, but we've got to do something before the Sunshine Millions."

Lucky J.H. did more than enough in Monday's Impressive Luck, winning his second consecutive stakes. The race served as a prep to the $500,000 Sunshine Million Turf for California-breds and Florida-breds here Jan. 24.

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Lucky J.H. ($4) stalked pacesetter Hewitts to early stretch and held off a late run from Majestic Diamond to win by a half-length. Hewitts held third. Lucky J.H. ran about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course in 1:13.55.

"I had to move a little before I wanted to," Espinoza said. "He's an old horse and he does what it takes to win."

The Impressive Luck was Lucky J.H.'s first start since a win in the Sensational Star Handicap here last April and the eighth win of an 18-race career that includes earnings of $630,065. Owned by breeder John Harris, Lucky J.H. has won four stakes in his career but has been plagued by foot problems. Quarter cracks that developed in May kept him out of training through the spring and summer.

"He runs as long as his feet hold up," Gaines said.

Lucky J.H. will be making his second consecutive appearance in the Sunshine Millions Turf, which is run over 1 1/8 miles. Last year, at Gulfstream Park, Lucky J.H. set the pace to the final furlong and finished third.

Foxysox returns from long layoff

Gaines may have another turf winner on Thursday when Foxysox returns from a layoff of nearly five months in a $63,000 allowance race over a mile on turf. Owned by Warren Williamson, Foxysox won the Grade 2 Santa Barbara Handicap at this meeting last April.

Gaines could have run Foxysox at Hollywood Park last month, but opted to wait for this meet.

"She loves this grass course," Gaines said. "Off a layoff, I wanted a mile. It would be a good distance to start back. She's never trained like this. I'm hoping she runs as well as she's training."

Foxysox is part of a field of 10 that includes Double Trouble, winner of the Grade 1 Santa Maria Handicap last February, and the minor stakes winners Bahama Mama, R Charlie's Angel, and Shermeen.

Zenyatta nears return to track

Zenyatta, the undefeated 5-year-old mare, is nearing a return to training after a two-month break following her victory in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Santa Anita on Oct. 24.

Trainer John Shirreffs said earlier this week that Zenyatta could begin track work next week after being walked at his Hollywood Park stable for the last two months.

"She's just walking, with another week to go," Shirreffs said. "We've let her down well. She's comfortable with walking three hours a day."

Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Zenyatta has won nine starts and $2,144,500. She will return to racing in the spring, Shirreffs said. The comeback may not happen until the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, which begins in April.

"We're not talking about a comeback until she breezes," Shirreffs said. "We figured we'd wait and get through the 60 days of time off and we'll start back."

* Despite being nominated for Sunday's $150,000 San Gorgonio Handicap, Vacare remains retired and will be sent to England next week to be bred, according to co-owner Sarah Kelly. The 6-year-old mare won the Grade 2 Dahlia Handicap at Hollywood Park on Dec. 21 in her final start. The Grade 2 San Gorgonio Handicap is run over 1 1/8 miles on turf for fillies and mares. The leading contenders include High Heel Sneakers, Marzelline, Roshani, and Valbenny.

* Flashing Forward was pulled up while leading Monday's seventh race, an allowance race. A winner of 3 of 9 starts, Flashing Forward suffered an injury to her right front knee and was undergoing X-rays at trainer Gary Sherlock's barn late Monday, track officials said.