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Gomez hard-pressed to break record
ARCADIA, Calif. - Time may be running out for Garrett Gomez to break the single-season record for stakes wins at a Santa Anita winter-spring meeting.
Through Thursday, Gomez had 15 stakes wins since the meeting started on Dec. 26. The record of 19 is shared by Laffit Pincay Jr. (1982-83) and Corey Nakatani (1996-1997).
Even though Gomez needs only four more to tie that mark before the meeting ends on April 19, his schedule will result in conflicts. Over the next two weekends, Gomez has stakes engagements out of town.
Furthermore, Gomez plans to ride at Keeneland in April but will ride at Santa Anita on two weekend days - the April 4 Santa Anita Derby program and Easter Sunday, April 12, a day in which Keeneland does not race.
"It would be easier if we had the whole time" to ride at Santa Anita, he said between races on Thursday. "We have a lot of stuff going on."
Gomez was in a similar situation last year. He rode at Santa Anita until early April, and finished the meeting with 13 stakes wins. This year, he has been even stronger. He has won two stakes on Jibboom (Monrovia and Buena Vista handicaps) and Georgie Boy (Sunshine Millions Sprint and San Carlos Handicap) and the Grade 1 Santa Monica Handicap on Ventura.
Through Thursday, Gomez led all riders with 69 wins, holding a 10-race advantage over Rafael Bejarano.
This weekend, Gomez has an excellent chance to move closer to the stakes record. Saturday, he was booked to ride two favorites - Pioneerof the Nile in the San Felipe Stakes and Life Is Sweet in the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap.
Gomez has two stakes mounts on Sunday - Bel Air Sizzle in the $125,000 Irish O'Brien Stakes and Hype in the $70,000 Pasadena Stakes.
Gomez, 37, has won the Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding rider of 2007 and 2008.
In the next few weeks, Gomez's major stakes mounts away from California include Bittel Road in the $500,000 Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park on March 21, Dunkirk in the $750,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 28, and a yet to be determined 3-year-old for trainer Bob Baffert in the $800,000 Sunland Derby in New Mexico on March 29.
Later this year, Gomez will ride in Kentucky in the spring before moving to New York for the Belmont Park spring meet, Saratoga, and Belmont Park's fall meeting, according to his agent, Ron Anderson.
Gomez plans to return to California for the last part of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting in the fall. The Breeders' Cup will be held at Santa Anita in November. He followed the same schedule in 2006 and 2007, but rode at Del Mar last summer.
Madeo looks good in comeback
That Madeo was pulled up in the Grade 2 San Fernando Stakes at Santa Anita in January was largely forgotten by late Thursday afternoon. In his comeback in a one-mile allowance race on turf, Madeo closed from sixth in a field of eight to win by two lengths, his first victory since the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby last August.
Madeo was not diagnosed with an injury after the San Fernando. He was pulled up on the backstretch after jockey Mike Smith feared the 4-year-old took a bad step. Subsequent examinations revealed no injuries, but trainer John Shirreffs said at the time that Madeo would be kept to turf racing.
In Thursday's race, Madeo rallied five wide on the turn to take the lead before the eighth pole.
"What a race," owner Jerry Moss said. "He has a great turn of foot."
Shirreffs said he had a slight feeling of uncertainty about Thursday's race.
"Until they run in the afternoon, you don't know," Shirreffs said. "It was a good time to try him."
Madeo has won 4 of 11 starts and $388,715. The Del Mar Derby is his lone stakes win.
Colonel John, Tiago recuperating
Colonel John and Tiago, major stakes winners who were intended runners in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap on March 7 before developing illnesses, have been given clean bills of health at Southern California equine clinics, their trainers said.
Colonel John developed a fever on the morning of March 7. He was sent to Alamo Pintado Equine Clinic in Los Olivos, Calif., earlier this week and was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection. Colonel John was scheduled to return to trainer Eoin Harty's stable at Santa Anita this weekend.
"He's a hell of a lot better," Harty said. "I didn't want to take any chances."
Colonel John won the Santa Anita Derby and Travers Stakes last year.
Harty said that Colonel John would resume light training next week for a springtime comeback.
Tiago, trained by Shirreffs, returned to Hollywood Park on Friday after a brief stay at the Chino Valley Equine Clinic. Tiago showed signs of abdominal distress on March 4, which was not considered to be a case of colic, according to veterinarian Dawn Hunkin.
Shirreffs knew something was amiss when Tiago lost his appetite.
"Basically, he showed some mild signs of abdominal discomfort," Hunkin said. "It was never colic, per se. He just wasn't right. He responded to medical therapy at the track. Whatever he had seems to be quite mild. We sent him to the hospital for the safe side."
Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Tiago, 5, won the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap last year.
Things a lot calmer for Shadow of Illinois
Shadow of Illinois, a 9-year-old gelding, is having a much less calamitous build-up to his start on Sunday than he did to his previous race in late January.
Prior to finishing second by a nose in an optional claimer over 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track on Jan. 25, Shadow of Illinois got loose in the barn area four days before the race and took a brief high-speed tour of the stables. He emerged unscathed.
"We thought his career could be over," trainer Anthony Saavedra said.
Leaving the gate for the race itself, Shadow of Illinois tore off a shoe, but luckily did not damage his foot.
Shadow of Illinois is back in the same kind of race on Sunday, over about 6 1/2 furlongs on the hillside turf course. He won the San Simeon Handicap in 2005 over the same course.
These days, Shadow of Illinois runs for a $25,000 claiming price.
"The six weeks between races has been good for him," Saavedra said.