03/23/2012 4:17PM

Santa Anita: Gomez feeling better, returns to action

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Jockey Garrett Gomez returned to riding after a two-week break Thursday and was second and third with two mounts on an eight-race program.

Gomez, 40, injured his heel when he was unseated on the path between the paddock and the racetrack Jan. 8. He made his initial comeback March 9, but went back to the sidelines after riding one horse, citing soreness.

Between mounts Thursday, Gomez said giving his heel an additional 13 days to recover was the right move.

He recalled that when he was warming up his mount March 9 he felt “considerable pain”. That was not the case Thursday.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I got over a major hurdle.”

Gomez worked horses Monday and Wednesday last week and underwent a significant physical-therapy session Tuesday. He has three mounts Sunday, including rides in the day’s two turf stakes – Hog’s Hollow in the $150,000 San Luis Rey Stakes and leading contender Cambina in the $150,000 Santa Ana Stakes.

Gomez had such an outstanding start to the meeting from the Dec. 26 opening day until Jan. 8 that he still ranks in a tie for second in stakes wins at the meeting, with six. Mike Smith leads all riders at the meeting with seven stakes wins.

Overall, Gomez has won nine races from 51 mounts at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. Joel Rosario is the leading rider with 70 mounts, a position he strengthened with four wins Thursday. Rosario, 27, is the defending riding champion at this meeting. Last year, he won 89 races, a figure he could easily surpass before the season ends April 22.