07/10/2003 12:00AM

Gomez held on drug charges


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Jockey Garrett Gomez, who has won more than 2,000 races in his career but has not ridden since last fall, was arrested in Temecula, Calif., on July 3 on drug-related charges.

Gomez, 35, is being held at the Southwest Detention Center in Temecula, according to Dennis Gutierrez, a spokesman for the Riverside County Sheriff's Department.

Gomez was arrested on charges of possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and being under the influence of a controlled substance, according to Gutierrez. A bench warrant had been issued for his arrest in Pasadena, Calif., in early July, after Gomez failed to make a court appearance for a separate arrest, according to a source. He faces arraignment in Southwest Justice Center Superior Court in Temecula on July 16.

The July 3 arrest is the latest setback in the troubled career of a top jockey who has battled substance abuse problems in the past.

Gomez has not ridden since last fall at Sunland Park in New Mexico, where he temporarily led the standings. He was booked to ride one mount on the opening day of the Santa Anita meeting last December, but was removed at scratch time.

Gomez moved from the Midwest to California in the mid-1990's and became one of the circuit's leading jockeys. He won the riding title at the 1998 Hollywood Park fall meeting. The following year, his mounts earned a career-high $9 million.

Last year, his top stakes wins came aboard Golden Apples (Santa Ana Handicap) and Denon (Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap).

Gomez is not currently licensed by the California Horse Racing Board. He approached officials in mid-June about a return to riding but did not file an application, according to a person familiar with Gomez's case.

In recent weeks, Gomez was reportedly working with counselors at the Winner's Foundation, a racing charity that aids people in the sport with substance abuse problems.