11/01/2002 1:00AM

Gomez taking November break


ARCADIA, Calif. - Garrett Gomez, who has not ridden since Oct. 20, said on Friday that he is taking November off for personal reasons and plans to return to riding at Hollywood Park in December.

Gomez, who has won nine races from 56 mounts at the current Oak Tree meeting, said he plans to spend time with his family. He declined to discuss the reason for his absence.

"It's more important to be with my family right now than work," Gomez said. "I could go back this week, but I'm not going to. My family gets turned down a lot."

Gomez, 30, has been sidelined by alcohol problems in the past, but said that is not the reason he has been away from racing.

"I've got some stuff I'm trying to deal with. I had to go to a couple of meetings to keep my head straight and clear," he said, declining to elaborate.

"I heard I was on crack. I heard I was in rehab. I heard I went back to Arkansas. I heard I was buying a gas station. It's not true."

Gomez said that he and his agent, Michelle Barsotti, have decided to point for a December return at Hollywood Park.

"I'll be back in the last two or three weeks of December," he said. "I could ride today, but I'm a little heavy right now. I'm not reducing right now."

Even though Gomez is in the top 10 at the Oak Tree meeting, he has had his share of disappointments this year. He was taken off the stakes horses Golden Apples and Momentum earlier this year and did not ride in the Breeders' Cup.

"There's been a lot of disappointments but that's the way this business is," he said. "You have to ride it like it a wave. It's part of the job. I had a couple of weeks recently when I caught on."

On Friday, Gomez said he will work horses at Santa Anita this weekend. "I'm going to go out and work a horse and keep my legs underneath me," he said.

Fine showing from Madame Pietra

Madame Pietra behaves like a princess around trainer Howard Zucker's barn at Santa Anita. Her antics will be tolerated if she continues to run as well as she did in Thursday's $82,250 Cascapedia Stakes at Santa Anita.

Winning her second stakes of 2002, Madame Pietra rallied from sixth to win by two lengths over Harvest Girl, finishing six furlongs in a quick 1:09.31. Ridden by Patrick Valenzuela, Madame Pietra had a perfect trip. She stalked the fast pace of Refine - who set fractions of 21.24 and 43.88 seconds - and rallied wide to take over in the final furlong.

"She's been looking for that trip all year," Zucker said. "Pat is unbelievable. I could see on the way to the gate that he had her so relaxed. She's got that half-mile kick. It looked like the big fish eating the little fish."

Madame Pietra has won 4 of 13 starts and $191,685 for Carl Grether. Earlier this year, Madame Pietra won the Soviet Problem Handicap at Golden Gate Fields.

On Friday morning, Zucker credited the work of former jockey Roxane Losey, who regularly exercises the 5-year-old Madame Pietra in the morning's first set before leaving for her job at the Los Angeles Zoo.

Losey and Zucker have come to realize that Madame Pietra has peculiar habits.

"She has to have things her own way," Zucker said. "She has to have a mint on the way to the track and a mint on the way back.

"I have a picture of her when she was a foal and she looked like a donkey. She had huge ears. She's grown into them, but she still has huge antennae."

Bull Market may go to Challenge

Bull Market, who finished fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Arlington Park last weekend, is being pointed for the $275,000 Great State Challenge Juvenile at Sam Houston Race Park on Dec. 7, trainer Bob Baffert said.

The Great State Challenge brings together horses from several states. Bull Market would be the Kentucky representative in the Juvenile, if he starts.

Owned by Jim McIngvale, Bull Market has yet to win a stakes in four starts. Following a sixth-place finish in the Del Mar Futurity, he finished second by a nose in the Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita on Oct. 5.

In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Bull Market led on the final turn but faded in the stretch and was beaten 6 1/4 lengths by stablemate Vindication.

Moccasin next for Puxa Saco

Puxa Saco, the winner of the Anoakia Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on Oct. 20, will return in the $100,000 Moccasin Stakes over seven furlongs at Hollywood Park on Nov. 16, trainer Jenine Sahadi said.

On Thursday, Puxa Saco worked a half-mile in 46.80 seconds.

Sahadi also has a promising 2-year-old turf filly arriving from Europe later this month. Luvah Girl, the winner of the Group 2 Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket, England, on Oct. 19, is expected to arrive in California in mid-November. She may be considered for the $200,000 Miesque Stakes at Hollywood Park on Nov. 29, but Sahadi said nothing has been finalized.

* Sunday is the closing day of the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting. Hollywood Park opens a fall meeting on Wednesday with a program highlighted by the Bien Bien Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf.