05/20/2009 11:00PM

Gomez to ride full time in California


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Garrett Gomez, the Eclipse Award winner as the nation's leading rider in 2007 and 2008, is returning to Southern California to ride on a full-time basis on June 7, his agent, Ron Anderson, said Thursday.

Gomez, 37, who is currently riding in New York, wants to spend more time with his wife and two children, who live in Southern California year round, Anderson said.

"It's just more of an issue of him being comfortable and wanting to be there," Anderson said from New York. "He's really missing his kids."

Gomez will spend this weekend at Hollywood Park, riding graded stakes on Saturday through Monday. He will ride at Belmont Park through the Belmont Stakes program on June 6 and then move to California.

Anderson said that once Gomez is settled in California he will spend some weekends traveling, riding major stakes such as the Stephen Foster Handicap program at Churchill Downs on June 13.

"When they are big days, we'll still be traveling," Anderson said. "There will be many road trips."

Last week, Hollywood Park reduced its racing calendar from five days a week to four through the middle of June, citing a shortage of race-ready horses. Anderson said the cut in racing days in Southern California did not deter Gomez from relocating.

"If there's a three-horse field, he'll be one of the three and have a chance," Anderson said. "The smaller fields will help because he's so sought after."

Earlier this year, Gomez rode at Santa Anita through the first weekend of April, when he relocated to Keeneland. He has ridden in Kentucky and New York since then, except for the occasional stakes mount in California. Last month at Hollywood Park, Gomez rode Compari to a victory in the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes.

Gomez has led the nation's jockeys in earnings the last two years. Last year, he finished the season with earnings of $23,344,351, just missing Jerry Bailey's 2003 single-season North American record by $10,609.

Whatsthescript may benefit from time off

The Grade 1, $250,000 Shoemaker Mile on Monday will be Whatsthescript's first start in six months. The layoff would concern some trainers, but John Sadler said Whatsthescript is at an advantage with such a lengthy break.

Last year, Whatsthescript returned from a six-month break to win the Grade 2 American Handicap in July, the start of a campaign that included a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita in October. Whatsthescript has not started since finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Citation Handicap here last November.

"When he won the American Handicap last year, he was so fresh," Sadler said. "I've had plenty of time to train him."

The goals for 2009 are similar to last year's with Whatsthescript, who is owned by Tom and Debbie Stull's Tommy Town Thoroughbreds. Whatsthescript will be pointed for the $300,000 Del Mar Mile on Aug. 29, which he won last year, as well as the BC Mile at Santa Anita in November.

"We've made a deliberate plan," Sadler said.

The Shoemaker Mile, one of the nation's top springtime turf races, has taken on added significance for Whatsthescript, who has yet to win at the Grade 1 level.

"I need to win a Grade 1 with him to help his value as a stallion," Sadler said.

The Shoemaker is expected to draw a field of seven. The other probable starters are Dixie Chatter, Hyperbaric, Thorn Song, U S Ranger, Ventura, and Tiz West.

Backbackbackgone brings his track with him

Backbackbackgone will be after his first graded stakes win in Sunday's $100,000 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes. The accomplished 3-year-old colt has already done something that trainer Peter Miller believes could be a racing first, winning on five different types of surfaces.

Backbackbackgone won his maiden on a dirt track at Bay Meadows, the Willard Proctor Stakes on Cushion Track at Hollywood Park, the Jack Goodman Stakes on Pro-Ride at Santa Anita, the Golden Beat Stakes on Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields, and the Harry Henson Stakes on April 22 on the Hollywood Park turf course.

"You tell me a horse that's won on five different surfaces," Miller said Thursday. "He's never had a home game."

Miller trains Backbackbackgone at the San Luis Rey Downs training center in northern San Diego County.

The Grade 3 Barrera at seven furlongs has a field of 10 and will be a test for Backbackbackgone, who has never won beyond six furlongs. The style of his Henson win, where he pulled away to score by 2 1/2 lengths after setting the pace, gives Miller confidence, especially since Backbackbackgone underwent surgery for a breathing problem earlier this year.

"The breathing problem, right now, is a nonissue," Miller said. "I'm interested if he can run seven-eighths. It's an exciting race for that."