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WHILE GOMEZ BURNS, JIM ROME EXHALTS IN MONROVIA HANDICAP WINNER’S CIRCLE AFTER HIS MIZDIRECTION UPSETS UNZIP ME
ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 2, 2012) – Two-time Eclipse Award winning jockey Garrett Gomez clearly has not slowed down at the age of 40, winning his third stakes race at Santa Anita on Monday after having captured a pair on his birthday Sunday.
As he had done on Sunday while winning twice from off the pace aboard the second choice in each case, Gomez drove second-choice Mizdirection to a come-from-behind upset in Monday’s Grade III, $100,000 Monrovia Handicap at 6 ½ furlongs over Santa Anita’s hillside turf course.
The Monrovia was supposed to belong to course specialist Unzip Me, the 6-5 favorite who was aiming to become only the second back-to-back winner of the race being contested for the 45th time, and Unzip Me appeared to be making a winning bid in midstretch while seeking her 7th victory in 10 starts over the course.
But here came Gomez in his familiar fast-closing style on the outside with 3-1 Mizdirection, who ran past Unzip Me and others to win by 1 ¾ lengths. Longshot Wild Mia gained second by a nose over Unzip Me and Separate Forest, who dead-heated for the show. The winning time was 1:11.64.
It was the first race over the course for Mizdirection, trained by Mike Puype for sports-talk radio and television superstar Jim Rome’s Jungle Racing and partners. The 4-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast relished the experience while gaining her first graded stakes victory. She hasn’t been off the board in eight starts while compiling a 4-3-1 record. The winning purse of $60,000 increased the $50,000 sales purchase’s career earnings to $255,711.
“Garrett Gomez can host the show tomorrow,” Rome exclaimed afterward on HRTV. “Garrett can do my TV show; it’s Garrett’s world, whatever he wants. Garrett Gomez is burning. I’ve had a lot of really good things happen to me in business and in life, but nothing has ever felt as good as that felt, in a professional sense. . .I don’t know anything that’s ever felt that good.”
Said a somewhat less subdued Gomez, “My horse broke running and she got up on her feet right away. I didn’t expect to have any horses in front of me because I didn’t feel like there was that much speed.” Gomez, however, found himself surrounded by opposition.
“So I just dropped her head and let her place herself,” he continued. “She kept herself where she was fairly comfortable and traveled good down the hill. I didn’t want to hold her up too much after we crossed the dirt. She traveled well, did everything good, and this was a good experience first time down the hill.”
“It was a good race,” said Puype. “She sprints with anyone on the turf, the way she ran today. She showed another dimension, too. She came from further back today. They were really flying sand, and she kicked it in. I couldn’t be prouder of her effort or the ride Garrett put on her. It was a big race. It’s a dream come true to have a good filly like this that can do this kind of work on the grass at that distance.”
Marty Jones, who trains Unzip Me, could emphasize with Puype’s last remark. He offered no excuse for his mare’s setback. “She had a pretty good trip,” said Jones. “They were flying. They really set it up for somebody from behind.”
“I let my horse go little by little,” said Rafael Bejarano, Unzip Me’s regular rider. “She showed me a big kick at the end, but she was a little too tired.”
Mizdirection paid $8.40, $4.60 and $2.80. Wild Mia, sent off a 28-1 with David Flores aboard, returned $17.20 and $6.40. Separate Forest, ridden by Hector Berrios, paid $3 for her portion of the show. The show mutuel on Unzip Me was $2.10.
The pair of stakes victories by Gomez’s mounts on Sunday included Bauble Queen in the Grade II Robert J. Frankel Stakes and Rumor in the $79,500 Kalookan Queen Handicap.
Following dark days on Tuesday and Wednesday, Santa Anita racing resumes on Thursday with an eight-race program that gets underway at 1 p.m.