05/11/2011 1:57PM

Hollywood Park: Gomez enjoying time at home

Benoit & Associates
Jockey Garrett Gomez will ride at Hollywood for the spring-summer meet.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The evening updates were getting old.

In recent summers, when jockey Garrett Gomez was somewhere in the Eastern time zone, typically in Kentucky, New Jersey, or New York, he often spoke at night to his wife and children back in California, getting caught up with the developments of their lives.

He was a working father, but an absent father, and it was not satisfying.

“I was missing a lot over the years,” Gomez said last weekend.

Not this year. Gomez will get first-hand accounts of all school activities and sporting contests from son Jared and daughter Amanda, while being based full time at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting for the first time in two years.

Gomez, who won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding rider in 2007 and 2008, won the 2005 riding title at the spring-summer meeting with 62 wins, but has won 31 races at five subsequent spring-summer meetings. He had 19 wins at the 2009 meeting here, riding regularly after the Belmont Stakes in New York. Last year, Gomez had just three mounts at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting.

Earlier this year, Gomez was based at Santa Anita until early April, rode at Keeneland and Churchill Downs until Saturday’s Kentucky Derby program, and was at Hollywood Park on Sunday.

“I walked off the plane and walked straight in here,” he said after Sunday’s program.

Last year, Gomez rode in New Jersey and New York during the summer. He plans to travel to those circuits, and other East Coast tracks, when major opportunities arise in coming weeks. He is booked to ride Sway Away in the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 21.

“I can be anywhere in the world and ride where I need to be,” he said.

Earlier this year, Gomez switched agents. Ron Anderson represented Gomez until early April, when Tony Matos took over.

Winning major stakes is more of a goal for the 39-year-old Gomez, since he does not have enough activity on a daily basis to contend for a riding title. This weekend, Gomez rides Falcon Rock in Saturday’s $150,000 Jim Murray Handicap and the promising 3-year-old sprinter Runflatout in Sunday’s $100,000 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes.

On weekdays, he does not expect to be busy. He said his business tailed off on those days on the East Coast in recent seasons, too.

“I don’t have a lot no matter where I am, whether it was here, Monmouth, or New York,” he said. “The weekends were better. If it’s like that, I can do that from here. I don’t get to miss out on my kids.”

Juniper Pass skipping Jim Murray

Saturday’s Grade 2 Jim Murray Handicap, run over 1 1/2 miles on turf, will not include Juniper Pass, the dominant marathon horse of the spring at Santa Anita.

Juniper Pass won the Grade 2 San Luis Rey Stakes over 1 1/2 miles on the main track March 20 and the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano Handicap over about 1 3/4 miles on turf April 17.

Trainer Ray Bell said Wednesday that Juniper Pass is close to having his first workout since the San Juan Capistrano and that the $250,000 Charles Whittingham Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 11 could be the 4-year-old colt’s next start.

“We’ll keep that Whittingham race in our minds,” he said. “He hasn’t lost a good deal of conditioning.”

Bell said that during this summer and fall Juniper Pass could be sent for stakes at Arlington Park or Woodbine, and that the colt deserved a rest in the last month.

“You’ve got to give these horses a break every now and then or you’ll get to the fall and they’ll be over the top,” he said.

The expected starters for the Grade 2 Jim Murray include defending champion Acclamation, Buenos Dias, Falcon Rock, Haimish Hy, Restless Soul, and Soul Candy. Haimish Hy won the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby last November but was winless in four starts at the Santa Anita meeting.

Blind Luck pointing to Vanity Handicap

Blind Luck, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2010, is likely to make her next start in the $250,000 Vanity Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on June 18, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Wednesday.

Blind Luck ended a five-race losing streak, all second-place finishes, with a win in the Grade 2 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 6, her eighth career stakes win. Blind Luck overcame a stumble at the start to win by a half-length under Gomez.

“She’s come out of her race really well,” Hollendorfer said.

Blind Luck has won 10 of 19 starts and $2,679,520. Earlier this year, she was second in two stakes at Santa Anita to Always a Princess and second to division leader Havre de Grace at Oaklawn Park.

Hollendorfer sent Blind Luck to Oaklawn Park because he feared that Santa Anita’s track did not favor a closer such as Blind Luck.

“I think that had a lot to do with it,” he said. “When we were beaten, we were beaten by good fillies.”