05/29/2006 11:00PM

Gomez might stick around East Coast


ELMONT, N.Y. - The earlier-than-expected return of jockey John Velazquez to the saddle will not hasten fellow rider Garrett Gomez's exit from New York.

Gomez, who is based in Southern California, joined forces with Velazquez's major client, trainer Todd Pletcher, shortly after Velazquez suffered a broken shoulder blade and cracked rib in an April 20 spill at Keeneland. Initially, Velazquez was expected to be out of action until mid-July, but he is slated to return Friday at Monmouth Park, where he will ride Scat Daddy in a five-furlong maiden race. Thereafter, Velazquez will ride one or two mounts a day before building up his stamina to where he can ride more frequently.

Gomez, meanwhile, has ridden 9 winners from 52 mounts at the Belmont meet, but only two wins have been for Pletcher. He has also won races for Steve Asmussen, Kiaran McLaughlin, and Saeed bin Suroor.

Gomez, who ranks second in the country in purse money won, says he will remain in New York through the Belmont meet before deciding whether to return to California for Del Mar or ride at Saratoga.

"It's something I'm going to have to really keep bouncing around in my head, and it's not all dependent upon me either; it's how much business we scrounge up," said Gomez, who is represented by agent Ron Anderson. "From the sounds of it, Ron says the business looks good. He's kind of throwing the pressure towards me."

Gomez said his entire family lives in Southern California, but added that his wife, Pam, would most likely support whatever decision he makes. Riding in Southern California, Gomez says, requires just one move to Del Mar. On the East Coast, riders must move to Saratoga for six weeks and then usually head to south Florida for the winter.

"There are some perks to being here," Gomez said. "There's a lot of money to be made. There are some downfalls. You have to move."

Gomez and Pletcher recently enjoyed great success out of town during Derby and Preakness week. On Derby Day, at Churchill Downs, Gomez won four races for Pletcher, including the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic aboard English Channel. On May 19-20, at Pimlico, Gomez won four stakes for Pletcher. Overall, the Gomez-Pletcher duo is 13 for 37 with 6 seconds and 5 thirds since April.

"There's not one complaint out of my mouth," Gomez said. "When I came here I had no expectations. I came here to fill in for Johnny and ride Todd's horses, and hopefully I've done a good enough job for him."

Anderson, who represented Jerry Bailey for six years before Bailey's retirement in January, said he would like to keep Gomez on the East Coast at least through the fall.

Silver Train likely for Tom Fool

In the heat of the moment of a thrilling win in Monday's Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. mentioned the possibility of stretching out Silver Train to 1 1/4 miles in the Grade 1, $400,000 Suburban Handicap on July 1.

The morning after, Dutrow backtracked and said Silver Train most likely would run next in the Grade 2, $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap here July 16. The Tom Fool is contested at seven furlongs.

"We're not going to rule out the Suburban, but most likely it's the Tom Fool," said Dutrow. "I'm sure we can depend on him to run a good race going seven furlongs."

Dubai Escapade works toward Vagrancy

Dubai Escapade, arguably the best older female sprinter based on the East Coast, has recently resumed training after a short break and will be pointed to the Grade 3, $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap here on June 11. On Monday, she worked five furlongs in 1:01.46 over Belmont's main track.

Dubai Escapade, trained by Eoin Harty, is 4 for 5 in her career and 3 for 3 this year. She is coming off a 4 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Madison Stakes at Keeneland on April 12. She received a short break at Jonabell Farm following the Madison.

"She ran such a hard race at Keeneland they just decided to turn her out for a few days and freshen her up," said Brian Ange, the Belmont Park-based assistant to Harty. "They kept her there till the beginning of May, when we were able to get in here."

Ange said he was happy that exercise rider Karine Lhuillier was able to work Dubai Escapade in a moderate time Monday.

"She has a tendency to work fast," Ange said. "Getting her to relax is the hard part."

Little Miss Zip heads Thursday feature

The stakes winner Little Miss Zip takes a slight drop in class Thursday, when she runs in a second-level allowance race for New York-bred fillies and mares going six furlongs on dirt.

Little Miss Zip won a maiden race by 7 1/4 lengths over this strip at first asking last year, and has run in six straight stakes races since, winning the Lady Finger at Finger Lakes in August. Most recently, she was beaten three-quarters of a length in the Park Avenue Division of the New York Stallion Stakes on April 30 at Aqueduct.

She faces 10 rivals in this race, including Stand by the Phone, who dueled with Little Miss Zip in the Park Avenue. If Little Miss Zip is unable to withstand the early pressure, What's Your Point looms the best closer.

* Norberto Arroyo Jr. on Tuesday began serving a seven-day riding suspension for a careless riding incident that occurred during the sixth race at Aqueduct on March 30. Arroyo is eligible to return June 6.