07/21/2008 11:00PM

Gomez ends 0-for-19 stretch


DEL MAR, Calif. - The little maiden claimer that Garrett Gomez won aboard Lady Schnapps in Monday's fifth race at Del Mar is the least consequential race he has won this month.

But it was a welcome bit of success after an opening week of tough luck for the 2007 Eclipse champion jockey. Gomez was winless with his first 19 rides at Del Mar before Lady Schnapps ($4) won by 5 1/4 lengths.

Gomez was philosophical about the results of the opening week of the Del Mar meet, which began last Wednesday. He did not commit to riding at Del Mar until early July, which he said may have affected his chances to gain everyday mounts.

Gomez, 36, was widely expected to ride at Saratoga, but opted to be based in California to be closer to his family instead.

"Up until two weeks ago, no one knew we were coming," he said. "I'm working. I'm out in the mornings. It's not like I'm sitting on the bench. I've had some seconds. If I'd won a couple of them, I'd be right there."

Gomez is well behind Rafael Bejarano, who led the Del Mar jockey standings with 10 wins through Monday's sixth day.

In fairness, Gomez has not ridden at Del Mar every day. Last Saturday, he won the $750,000 Virginia Derby aboard Gio Ponti at Colonial Downs.

Gio Ponti impressed Gomez with the fight he showed during the race.

"He took some hard bumping on the turn," he said. "You don't like to have the horse do that. He took it all and he still finished.

This weekend, Gomez will be at Saratoga on Saturday and Del Mar on Friday and Sunday. In the $300,000 Bing Crosby Handicap on Sunday, Gomez rides Johnny Eves in the Grade 1 race over six furlongs. Johnny Eves won the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes over seven furlongs at Santa Anita last December under jockey David Flores.

"I worked him the other day," Gomez said. "He worked nice. I was around at Santa Anita last winter. I know he's fast, but he's useful. He's not like a run-off fast."

Johnny Eves is part of a strong field in the Bing Crosby. Among other top candidates are the 2008 graded stakes winners In Summation and Street Boss, who will be ridden by Flores, as well as Barbecue Eddie, Jungle Prince, Silver Stetson Man, and Winsome Charm.

Streaking Mr. Chairman runs Thursday

Mr. Chairman's career was in jeopardy at the end of 2006 when he suffered an ankle injury. Nearly 18 months later, he has surprised trainer Doug O'Neill with the results of his comeback.

Thursday at Del Mar, Mr. Chairman will try for his third win in four starts this year in a $63,000 allowance race over a mile on turf.

"I think he looks good," O'Neill said.

"He had an ankle injury. It was a Merv Griffin horse, and if it needed three months, Merv gave it six."

After Griffin's death last year, Mr. Chairman was acquired by the Great Friends Stable syndicate. For Great Friends, Mr. Chairman won a starter allowance at Bay Meadows in April, finished third in an allowance race at Hollywood Park in May, and returned to win an allowance race for statebreds at that track on June 13.

Mr. Chairman has drawn the rail in a field of 10.

California Flag will set the pace. He won a six-furlong allowance race on turf for statebreds at Hollywood Park on July 2 in his first start as a gelding. Trainer Brian Koriner is hoping that California Flag can carry his speed around two turns.

"He had no reason to stop in his prior races," Koriner said. "We gelded him and he didn't stop."

Adios, Juan Garcia

Officially, trainer Juan Garcia left racing as a winner on Monday when Nate' N Ed won a claiming race for sprinters. Garcia, 65, retired on Monday, turning a 24-horse stable over to his son Victor, 43.

Juan Garcia said he will concentrate on developing a construction business based in El Paso, Texas, and Tijuana, Mexico, but will still look in on the stable occasionally. "It's time to let Victor take over," he said, leaving the winner's circle.

Juan Garcia is well-known for his success at the now defunct Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana, Mexico, where he was known as "King Juan." In California, he trained Native Desert, a popular gelding who earned more than $1.8 million before being retired in 2003 after an eight-year career.

Juan Garcia intended to retire a few years ago, but said that "Native Desert kept me here."

In recent years, Juan Garcia had homes in California and Tijuana, but he said the recent outbreak of violence in that Mexican border town led him to move his family to California for the sake of safety.

Victor Garcia has assisted his father for years. "I've been in the business since my dad was at Caliente," he said.

Victor Garcia had his first starter on Wednesday. He has his first stakes starter on Sunday in Jungle Prince, who will run in the Bing Crosby Handicap.

"He's pretty sharp," Victor Garcia said. "It's a tough race - and his first time to run on Polytrack."

Hofmans back to work after surgery

Trainer David Hofmans returned to work last weekend after undergoing stomach surgery earlier this month.

Hofmans, 65, said medical tests indicated that a polyp removed from his small intestine was benign.

Hofmans's son Grant is disbanding his Kentucky- and Illinois-based stable and has accepted a position as a farm manager at Rancho Paseana near Del Mar. Rancho Paseana is primarily a lay-up facility for horses that are being prepared for racetrack training.

Grant Hofmans said he will begin his new position in early August, and is moving his family to California. He said he will work with racetrack trainers to prepare their horses.

"I'll work with them to leg them up," he said.

* Apprentice jockey Michael Martinez has been given a three-day suspension for causing interference in the fifth race Saturday. Martinez was cited for his ride on It's Time to Shine, who was disqualified from third and placed fifth in a six-furlong maiden claimer.

Martinez's suspension covers racing on Sunday, Monday and Thursday. Martinez, 22, is a native of Panama who is in his first year of riding in California.