11/15/2007 1:00AM

Gomez retires after 36 years at Calder

EmailMIAMI - Frank Gomez, who set the standard for every trainer to pass through Calder Race Course since the track first opened in 1971, retired early this week due to failing health.

Gomez, 78, won more than 100 stakes during his 36-year tenure at Calder. By comparison, Manny Tortora is second on the list with 59 stakes wins. Overall, Gomez recorded more than 1,000 victories at his home track while capturing four local training titles. He was also the leading trainer at Gulfstream Park in 1982.

Gomez retired with 1,423 winners and purse earnings in excess of $24 million.

Gomez, who became a charter member of the Calder Hall of Fame in 1995, is perhaps best known for having developed several champions before sending them up north to other trainers. That group includes Princess Rooney, Smile, and Cherokee Run.

Gomez, who began his racing career riding jumpers in Europe, also won all three legs of the Florida Stallion Stakes twice, with Smile in 1984 and Naked Greed in 1991. He came within a nose of sweeping the series again in 2005 with In Summation.

In addition to all his success on the racetrack, Gomez was also extremely popular off the track. Despite being the dean of local horsemen, Gomez never hesitated to offer advice to any newcomer who might arrive on the scene, and his bright Irish smile was a familiar sight on the local backstretch for more than three decades.

"With Frank's retirement, Calder and Thoroughbred racing will be losing not only an outstanding horseman but a true gentleman and one of the best ambassadors that the sport has had both in and outside the confines of a racetrack," said Calder president Ken Dunn. "Frank was probably one of the strongest-willed people I've ever had the fortune to meet. He continued to produce outstanding results as a trainer while undergoing some very difficult personal challenges over the past several years, and all the while still managed to keep smiling through it all."

Cruz stays on top with five-win day

Manoel Cruz lengthened his lead atop the jockey standings after winning five races on Thursday's card. Cruz, who held a 36-33 advantage over Elvis Trujillo entering the day, won with Bullarium (1st race), Running Wish (3rd), Kaufy Machine (5th), Storm Tempo (7th), and Machismo (8th). Each of Cruz's five victories came for a different trainer.

Cruz will also be aboard the heavy favorite, Check It Twice, for trainer Kathleen O'Connell in Saturday's $22,500 allowance feature.

Check It Twice, a homebred son of Repent owned by the Cloverleaf Farm, is coming off a third-place finish behind Wise Answer in the 1 1/16-mile In Reality Stakes on Oct. 13. In his previous start, Check It Twice won a maiden special weight race, numbering among his victims recent stakes winner Dynhocracy.

O'Connell will hold a strong hand in Saturday's main event as she also sends out the promising Sir Dave, who finished fourth in the In Reality. Sir Dave overcame a poor start and his own greenness to win his only other start by three widening lengths five weeks earlier.

The remainder of the field for Saturday's headliner is Cargo Mate, Santuri, Cyryaco, Lost Island, Personal Good, and Rockcastle.

* Jane Clark Scott, owner and breeder of the stakes horse Quinkan Country, died last week following a long illness. Scott, who began her racing career as an exercise rider, served on the board of the Racetrack Chaplaincy and Women's Thoroughbred Action League during her 40-year tenure on the racetrack.