Gomez rides to ‘eclipse’ record behind anderson

November 06, 2007 3:34 AM
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In the world of agenting, cream rises to the top. Tom Parker, Swifty Lazar and Scott Boras come to mind.

Col. Parker was the man behind Elvis Presley. Lazar was the power behind show business legends Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Cher, Cary Grant, Gene Kelly, Madonna, Gregory Peck, Cole Porter and Ira Gershwin, among others. Scott Boras is the super agent who negotiated mega-contracts for Alex Rodriguez, Barry Zito and Johnny Damon.

Ron Anderson deserves mention in such esteemed company. In horse racing’s sphere, Anderson is without peer among contemporary agents. He was atop the planet with Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey for more than six years when Bailey led the nation in purse earnings and earned five of his record seven Eclipse Awards. To be as sharp as Anderson, you have to be an astute handicapper, a resilient diplomat and part snake oil salesman.

Currently, Anderson calls the shots for Garrett Gomez, who mysteriously missed out on an Eclipse Award last year, despite leading the country in purse money earned with more than $22 million. The coronation will not evade the 35-year-old rider this year. He again leads in money with some $21 million and counting, and, as he did in 2005, was named winner of the prestigious Shoemaker Award as outstanding rider in this year’s Breeders’ Cup, in which the Tucson native rode undefeated Indian Blessing to victory in the Juvenile Fillies, and Midnight Lute to an eye-catching triumph in the Sprint. The honor is voted on by international media covering the event.

Gomez is within hailing distance of Bailey’s record of 70 stakes wins set in 2003, a prize Anderson covets.

"I’ve got to think with 68 stakes already won, we’re going to tie or surpass Bailey’s record very soon," said the 53-year-old Anderson, a native of Las Vegas. "He is $3.5 million ahead of the runner-up (Robby Albarado) in money won, and now with two Breeders’ Cup wins, I think he’ll finally be acknowledged (by Eclipse voters)."

Whether Gomez has reached the Hall of Fame status of Bailey, or former Anderson client Gary Stevens, remains to be seen, but if he rides like did the first three days of the Oak Tree meet, he’s a cinch. Gomez won eight races from his first 11 mounts during the abbreviated run.

"Riders like that made things pretty easy on me," Anderson said, "but Garrett has gone from good to great. He’s in an elite status where I have people calling from basically all over the world to get his services." And who could blame them? Certainly not Ron Anderson.

"Garrett is the ultimate horseman," Anderson said. "That’s a quality a jockey needs to reach greatness, but Garrett can do anything. He’s the whole package. Like Bailey, Gomez very seldom gets himself in trouble in a race."

His best ride on Breeders’ Cup day, oddly enough, was one in which he got beat, in the mind of Anderson. That would have been a third on Octave, who was beaten two necks in the Distaff. "He didn’t rush her or get her in a spot where he had to be pushing her through the mud," Anderson said. "He kept her gathered up and bided his time until he got inside the three-eighths pole before he started riding her. I really think that might have been his best ride."

Even better was his performance in a 21/4-length victory aboard Spring House in the mile and a half Carleton F. Burke Handicap at Santa Anita. Though in mid-pack and surrounded by horses until the final turn, Gomez kept the 9-5 favorite comfortable and trouble free until both horse and jockey were ready to run. It was a strategic masterpiece. "That was a spectacular ride, too," Anderson allowed. "If he panicked at any point, got shut off or moved too soon, in a mile and a half race, he might have compromised his chance of winning."

At 35, Gomez should have many successful years ahead, and Anderson expects to be along for the ride. "I have no intention at all of pulling up stakes and quitting," Anderson said. "I’m having too much fun."

As is Gomez, who maintains a low profile in their quasi-symbiotic relationship. "We work well together," he said. "I don’t get in his way and he doesn’t say much to me about my riding, and I think that’s because we respect one another and how we do our jobs. I don’t ask too many questions, which I think frustrates Ron sometimes, but it’s because I have so much confidence in him that I just let him do what he’s got to do. And he’s the same with me.

"He’s a pleasure to work with. He’s the best in the business, and I’m glad he’s working for me."

The homestretch

”¡ With Gomez already on hand, Patrick Valenzuela about to return pending resolution of politics and paper work, and Rafael Bejarano and Julien Leparoux due soon from the East, Southern California’s jockey colony will increase dramatically in world-class talent, possibly creating a business void for long-standing veterans such as Alex Solis, Victor Espinoza, Corey Nakatani and Aaron Gryder.

”¡ Our Major League insiders tell us the chief sticking point that delayed Joe Torre being named manager of the Dodgers was a decree that each of his coaches receive $500,000 in salary, as they did when he managed the Yankees.

”¡ Whether Torre wins more games than his predecessor with the Dodgers, Grady Little, remains to be seen, but one thing for sure: Torre’s interviews will be significantly more insightful in tone and depth than Little’s humdrum and shallow sessions.

”¡ What will Carrot Top call himself when he turns gray?