11/07/2007 12:00AM

Not all marks created equal

EmailINGLEWOOD, Calif. - The news that Garrett Gomez is about to replace Jerry Bailey in the history books by winning a couple of stakes races at the current Hollywood Park meet is hardly a shocker. Records like that were made to be manufactured.

When totals are accumulated from an ever-increasing pool - more stakes are run each year - the number described as the "all-time" leading total must be viewed as skewed by inflation. Cell phones used to be rare. Now everyone has them. Who has the most? Who cares?

This is not to minimize the accomplishments of Gomez, who has teamed with agent Ron Anderson to craft one of the finest riding seasons in recent memory. Gomez kicked off the year with a tie for the title at Santa Anita, even though he left early to ride at Keeneland, and capped 2007 dramatically with two victories on Breeders' Cup Day at Monmouth Park. In between, Gomez stayed healthy and seemed to be in the right place at the right time more than any other jockey since, well, Jerry Bailey.

As he did while representing Bailey, Anderson targets stakes races far and wide, and has his jockey packed and ready to travel when serious money is on the table. Approximately one of every three victories by Gomez this year has come in a stakes event, a remarkable stat, and far more telling than gross totals.

If nothing else, the attention attracted by the pending Gomez record will help nail down a much-deserved Eclipse Award. In 2006, Gomez lost in the voting to Edgar Prado, even though Gomez led the season-ending money list and topped Prado in both total victories and stakes wins as well.

The Gomez record for stakes wins will surely be broken, probably by Gomez himself, and most likely in short order. Bailey's mark lasted just four years. Such marks must be considered second tier in the canon of great racing records, however. When they fall, we glance up briefly, then go back to work. But when any of the following records are breached, attention will be enthusiastically paid:

* The fabulous Western Canadian mare Monashee goes for her 12th straight victory on Saturday at Woodbine in the Maple Leaf Stakes, and she will be odds-on, even though she got loose and took a brief tour of Vancouver International before boarding a plane last week for Toronto.

"She broke the chain of her halter, backed out of the crate, and galloped about 20 feet down the tarmac," her trainer, Tracy McCarthy, told Greg Douglas of the Vancouver Sun. "Then she suddenly stopped. It was if she was saying to herself, 'Whoa, where am I going? What now?' "

Bravo to Monashee if she can do it. But the all-time streak of streaks belongs to Personal Ensign, who won 13 of 13 and is recognized as the holder of the modern mark for a perfect career by a Thoroughbred racehorse. The Personal Ensign era spanned three seasons and serious ankle surgery, highlighted by a victory over males in the 1988 Whitney Handicap and that last-second thriller over Winning Colors in the 1988 Breeders' Cup Distaff.

* Both trainer Dale Baird and jockey Russell Baze are approaching 10,000 career victories. These are breathtaking milestones, certainly worthy of recognition when they are achieved. But such numbers are linked as much to longevity as they are to excellence, and they can be accumulated anywhere horse racing is offered.

Champions, on the other hand, always play in rarefied air. It will be virtually impossible to ever match Kelso's five consecutive Horse of the Year titles, since the pool of top geldings is never large, and outstanding males with testicles rarely race these days past age 4.

The other side of the fence just called to point out that Flatterer was the North American steeplechase champion four straight years, 1983-86. Fair enough. That means the closest anything has come to Kelso numbers, without jumping, is Forego, who was champion older horse from 1974 through 1977. Top them and we'll talk.

* It used to be a big deal that no horse could win the Santa Anita Handicap more than once except for John Henry. Now that Milwaukee Brew and Lava Man have turned the trick, it's still pretty cool, but not quite the same.

Woody Stephens gets the glory for his five consecutive triumphs in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, 1982-86, although even Woody was impressed when Charlie Whittingham kept pace with five straight runnings of the 1 3/4-mile San Juan Capistrano, 1983-87. And among jockeys, wasn't that Angel Cordero who bagged the Woodward every year for five years, 1981-85? The only rider out West to run up a similar streak was Don Pierce, who won the Los Angeles Handicap from 1969 to 1973, when the race was every bit the equivalent of New York's Carter.

Everyone has their pet record, though, an accomplishment that stands apart in both difficulty and style. In this corner, the honor goes to Tiznow, the colt who won consecutive runnings of the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2000 and 2001.

It is hard enough to return year after year to perform at such a peak - just ask Garrett Gomez - but winning two runnings of North America's toughest horse race has got to count for something large. Let's hope Curlin gets his chance.