02/02/2010 12:00AM

Gonzalez still on the mend after April spill


ALBANY, Calif. - Roberto Gonzalez made a rare afternoon visit to Golden Gate Fields on Saturday. The 55-year-old jockey is still recovering from major injuries suffered on April 29 when his mount lost action in her rear legs and went down. He suffered a broken C2 vertebrae in his neck and broken left heel.

Gonzalez, the dean of Bay Area riders and winner of 4,387 races, still undergoes physical therapy on his neck three times a week. Gonzalez says his legs bother him and his neck is still stiff.

"It's a slow recovery," he said. "I've done too much damage to my body."

Gonzalez is a frequent morning visitor at Golden Gate Fields but doesn't come as often in the afternoon.

"In the afternoon, I get too excited, and I want to be out there," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez has a ranch in Brentwood, Calif., where he can stable 25 to 50 horses. He has a number of layups and says that he comes to the track in the afternoon usually to watch one of the horses from the ranch.

Gonzalez said he went to Golden Gate Fields on Saturday to watch Flier Money run for old friend Tony Diaz. Flier Money, who spent nearly eight months at the ranch, faded to ninth in a $4,000 nonwinners-of-two after setting the early pace. Gonzalez also wanted to watch the Sunshine Millions and was pleased by locally stabled Bold Chieftain's victory in the Classic.

Gonzalez spends a lot of time at his ranch.

"Thanks to the ranch, I've got something to do," he said. "I'm not stuck in the house all the time. Vets come over, owners come over, and we talk. You can't believe how much it helps."

Gonzalez still hasn't announced his retirement as a rider, but he won't return until he feels fully healed. He is well aware that it was a neck injury that forced his old friend Laffit Pincay Jr. to retire.

"If your shoulder hurts or your knee hurts, you ride," he said. "But your neck is different."

Bold Chieftain returns after his biggest win

Bold Chieftain, a millionaire and the only two-time California Cup Classic winner, returned to his Golden Gate Fields stall Sunday after winning the biggest race of his and trainer Bill Morey Jr.'s career in the $500,000 Sunshine Millions Classic at Santa Anita on Saturday.

"That was my biggest win," Morey said. "I've had four 300 granders and a second in the million-dollar Pacific Classic."

Everything worked out perfectly Saturday.

"I love it when a plan comes together. Wasn't that what the guy on 'The A-Team' used to say?" said winning rider Russell Baze, who followed Morey's instructions perfectly, sitting back and then finding a tiny hole to squeeze through to get the victory.

Morey agreed everything went the way he plotted it, starting with the fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 San Pasqual on Jan. 9, which was, in fact, a prep for the Sunshine Millions.

"The San Pasqual was a race we needed as part of his training," he said. "You want to try to win every race, but I wasn't disappointed finishing fourth. He didn't run a bad race, and we got what we wanted. He got a lot out of it. We then kept him there for three weeks and got a good work there."

As he analyzed the race, Morey said that with a number of runners stretching out, he told Baze to sit back early. He told him the field would bunch up between the quarter and three-sixteenths poles and said to stay inside and wait for a hole.

That's exactly what happened.

"The race couldn't have set up any better," Baze said.

Morey is looking ahead to Thursday's third race at Golden Gate Fields, where Bold Chieftain's half-sister Roman Lady will make her debut. There's another half-sister, a 2-year-old filly that Morey says looks like Zenyatta as far as color and conformation. And Hooked on Music, Bold Chieftain's dam, has been bred to 2005 Breeders' Cup Juvenile champion and Eclipse winner Stevie Wonderboy.

* Saturday is Snow Day at Golden Gate Fields, with 40 tons of snow being imported for a kids' play area and sliding hill. On Sunday, eight 42-inch flat-screen televisions will be given away, one after each race. Sunday's first post is 11:15 a.m. so fans can watch the Super Bowl.