09/08/2004 12:00AM

Gomez gets four rides in comeback

Benoit & Associates
Bluesthestandard has a history of working well at Fairplex.

POMONA, Calif. - The first day of the Los Angeles County Fair meet marks a new beginning for jockey Garrett Gomez. Port Isle in race 4 will be the first mount for Gomez since Dec. 14, 2002 at Sunland Park. Since then, Gomez fought substance abuse, received treatment, and got his life in order. Port Isle and Artabegood in race 8 are trained by Gomez's longtime friend Leonard Duncan. Gomez also rides two for trainer Pete Eurton - Fabulous Ruler in race 5, and Trish's Diamond in race 11, the $60,000 Foothill Stakes. Eurton said he has no worries using a jockey who had not ridden in more than 20 months.

"I don't think I'm giving up that much, he's been working horses for me at Santa Anita, he looked like he was in good shape, and I know he can bullring," Eurton said. Gomez, he added, is "an athlete. I think he can jump right back into it, like a fish into water."

Gomez, 32, is represented by agent Jim Pegram.

'Blues' works here, but won't run

He is the best horse stabled this fall at Fairplex Park, but Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up Bluesthestandard will confine his activity to workouts while his connections resist the temptation to run him on the five-furlong track.

"I'd like to see him run here, just because I've never had a horse train here the way he does," said Ted West, who trains the 7-year-old gelding with his son, Ted H. West.

Bluesthestandard posted three best-of-the-morning workouts at Fairplex Park last fall - three furlongs in 34 seconds; four furlongs in 46.60; and five furlongs in 58.80.

"Who can do that? No one can do that here," West said. "If he were a stud, I'd run him here just to set a track record."

Instead, Bluesthestandard will aim for the Grade 1 Ancient Title Handicap on Oct. 10 during the Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita. A win would boost Bluesthestandard's earnings past $1 million and set him on course for the 2004 BC Sprint at Lone Star. Bluesthestandard has won 15 races and $925,818 from 31 starts. He finished second in a Sept. 6 comeback race at Del Mar in which he earned a 101 Beyer.

Unexpected nominations

Graded stakes winners do not show up often at the Los Angeles County Fair, but Grade 1 winners Buddy Gil and Victory Encounter were nominated to weekend stakes. Horsemen are taking the meet seriously. Either that, or Buddy Gil and Victory Encounter have lost a step.

Trainer Jeff Mullins ultimately skipped the $60,000 Phil D. Shepherd Stakes on Saturday with 2003 Santa Anita Derby winner Buddy Gil and will run Verkade instead. Although trainer John Sadler said Vanity Handicap winner Victory Encounter was undecided for the $60,000 E.B. Johnston Stakes on Sunday, he confirmed that graded stakes sprinter Hombre Rapido was aiming to the $60,000 Governor's Cup Handicap on Sept. 15.

Three options for Coastal Strike

Their top 2-year-old filly Coastal Strike is waiting for Oak Tree, but owner-breeder Larry Williams and trainer Cliff Sise are in action Friday in race 10 at the Fair. Second-time starter Gn. Group Meeting is one of the favorites in the 6 1/2-furlong maiden race for California-bred 2-year-old fillies, after a runner-up debut going 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar. To win, Gn. Group Meeting must catch speedster Kohar, and Sise notes, "The distance helps us."

As for Coastal Strike, winner of the Generous Portion Stakes on Sept. 1, Sise named three options - the seven-furlong Cover Gal Stakes on Sept. 29; the Grade 2 Oak Leaf on Oct. 2; or the California Cup Juvenile Fillies on Oct. 16. Sise said the most likely spot for the front-running Coastal Strike would be the Cover Gal.

Bombs away when Treece enters

Looking for an opening-day longshot? Trainer Charles Treece may be the man in race 8. Barring the 2001 meet, when he started only five, Treece has averaged two winners each Fairplex meet since 1999, and both last year were at high odds - a $49 second-time starter in a maiden race for 2-year-old fillies and a $51.80 Los Alamitos shipper.

Four of Treece's last eight Fairplex winners were 2-year-old maiden-claimers, and he has another on which to wager Friday. Second-time starter Dr. Don's Promise broke awkwardly two weeks ago in her debut at Del Mar, made a middle move, then split the field. She runs for the second time Friday, and is likely to outrun her odds against droppers Artabegood and Sweet Currency going 1 1/16 miles.

Garcia and Hacek return

Jockey Matt Garcia and longtime agent Harry Hacek are making Los Angeles County Fair comebacks. Hacek, who spent the last three years in Chicago, has returned to California and is booking mounts for Garcia, the sixth-leading rider on the all-time Fairplex list with 143 wins. Garcia is riding at Fairplex for the first time in two years, having skipped the 2003 meet while riding on the East Coast. Garcia was the third-leading Fairplex rider in 2002, when he won with 17 of 81 mounts.

At a glance: Fairplex

RACING SCHEDULE: 17 consecutive days, Sept. 10 through Sept. 26. Live racing daily.

POST TIME: 12:30 weekdays; noon weekends.

HIGHLIGHTS: $100,000 Ralph M. Hinds Pomona Invitational Handicap on Sept. 26; $100,000 Pomona Derby on Sept. 25; $100,000 Las Madrinas Handicap on Sept. 24.

ADMISSION: Included in admission to Fair, $10 weekdays, $14 weekends, $1 opening day, box seats $3.

PARKING: General, $7; preferred, $10; VIP $15.

LOCATION: 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona, California. 30 miles east of Los Angeles, two blocks north of Interstate 10.

PHONE: (909) 623-3111