ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 31, 2009) – It came down to the last race of the year at Santa Anita, and, in a bizarre turn of events, all Garrett Gomez needed was for his pick-up mount to come out of the gate Thursday in order for him to gain his fourth straight national purse money-won title.

Cenizo, the 3-1 morning-line favorite in the eighth race whom Gomez had acquired when Martin Pedroza “took off” three races earlier, was victorious as the heavily bet 4-5 choice in the $18,000 maiden claimer. He earned $10,800.

The result allowed Gomez, on the eve of his 38th birthday, to overtake Julien Leparoux by $10,606 in the money race with mount earnings of $18,571,171 for 2009. Leparoux had earned $18,560,565 before returning to his native France to be with his family for the Christmas holidays.

But when Gomez did little more than replace Pedroza while $194 shy of Leparoux’s lead, the title became all but a fait accompli. Cenizo would have earned a performance fee of $400 for merely coming out of the starting gate.

At day’s end, Gomez had joined Laffit Pincay Jr. (1971 through 1974) and Braulio Baeza (1965 through 1968) as riders to have won the money championship four consecutive years. Bill Shoemaker holds the record of seven successive years, 1958 through 1964.

“To have to go down to actually my last mount of the year is unreal,” Gomez said following his 1 ¼-length win aboard Cenizo for trainer Julio Canani. “I was lucky enough to pick up the winner. I was hanging around the (jockeys’) room, hoping to pick up something, and Martin (Pedroza) didn’t feel well.”

Earlier, it seemed Gomez had been rebuffed in his title bid when his mount in the second race, Red Arrow, finished last among six entrants in the featured $54,354 optional claiming event at 5 ½ furlongs to earn no more than the $400 performance fee.

Gomez’s only other scheduled mount was in the fourth race. And even though 6-5 choice Fund Raiser was a handy winner of the maiden special weight competition, the first prize of $26,400 wasn’t quite enough to overcome the outcome of the second. He had fallen $194 short. Or so it seemed, at the time.

In reflecting on his best moment of 2009, Gomez said, “It was probably the Woodbine Mile with Ventura. Her race at Woodbine was just phenomenal and at the time, Bobby Frankel (Ventura’s trainer, who died on Nov. 16) was very sick. Ron (agent Ron Anderson) called him, and said Bobby was very happy and that meant a lot to us. Earlier in the week, I had won on Champs Elysees for Bobby. It’s been a great year.”

Gomez expressed optimism for 2010. “I feel we can win the title again,” he said. “We’re on top of our game and we’ve got a lot of really good people supporting us. Some of our big horses have gone by the wayside, so Ron and I are looking to replace some of those horses. It’s a great position to be in.”

For a while, his position looked anything but “great” on New Year’s Eve.

Red Arrow and Machismo, trained by John Sadler for Gary and Cecil Barber, were sent off as the second betting choice at odds of 5-2 in Thursday’s second race. Delta Storm, fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint on Nov. 7, was heavily favored at 9-10.

Red Arrow raced in fourth position early and moved into third nearing the far turn, but the 6-year-old Australian-bred failed to respond to Gomez’s strong urging. He gradually began to drop back on the turn while failing to beat a horse.

His entrymate, meanwhile, gained the lead from early leader Tribesman in midstretch and crossed the wire a nose in front of fast-closing longshot Paul’s Hope. Sangaree finished three-quarters of a length back in third while Tribesman checked in fourth. Delta Storm, who wound up fifth, was never a factor.

Machismo paid $7.80, $3.80 and $2.80. Paul’s Hope, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, returned $6.20 and $4.40. The show mutuel on Sangaree, with Martin Garcia in the saddle, was $5.20.

“He ran great,” Smith said of the winner. “The key today was getting away from the gate in good order, and he did that. He’s so quick away from there that sometimes he stumbles, and it’s hurt his chances.”

In his previous start, Machismo had finished a well-beaten sixth in Hollywood Park’s Grade III Vernon O. Underwood Stakes with Smith aboard on Dec. 6. “He got left at the break and grabbed a quarter,” Sadler said.

His victory on Thursday was the 5-year-old Trippi gelding’s first in six races. Prior to the Underwood, he had finished eighth in the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai last March.

Machismo’s winning purse of $31,800 on Thursday elevated his career earnings to $256,530 from a 6-7-3 record in 31 starts.

A 10-race program will be presented on New Year’s Day with Shadow of Illinois attempting to become the first 10-year-old in Santa Anita’s 75 years to win at stakes race at the track in the featured $100,000 Sensational Star Handicap. First post is at 12 noon.