The absence of top jockey Garrett Gomez at Santa Anita for an anticipated four to six weeks as a result of an accident prior to Sunday’s Grade III Daytona Stakes will unquestionably have an impact on the local riding colony.

The 40-year-old Gomez, who was off to a flying start with six stakes wins through the first 10 days of the meet, was undergoing surgery Thursday afternoon at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic in Los Angeles for a broken left heel, according to his agent, Tony Matos.

Gomez suffered the injury when his mount, Silver Summation, unseated him before flipping over backward en route to the race track after he was given a leg up in the walking ring prior to the Daytona Stakes.

Among the stakes wins by Gomez was the Sham aboard Out of Bounds. The Tucson native had been named to ride Citation Handicap winner Jeranimo, the favorite in Monday’s Grade II San Gabriel Stakes. He was replaced by Martin Garcia.

“Like always, it’s the trickle-down theory,” said Richie Silverstein, agent for Martin Pedroza and Kayla Stra. “Garrett is the third-leading rider (at the meet), he’s got tremendous stakes business, and in the famous words of the late (agent) Bill Barisoff, ‘One man’s loss is another man’s gain.’

“Everybody below him moves up one. But to Garrett’s credit, when he does come back, his business should still be there. When you’re among the top jocks, like him, (Rafael) Bejarano, (Joel) Rosario and possibly (Victor) Espinoza, you don’t lose business like some of the riders in the second tier.”


Prayer for Relief has run far and wide in his career of 10 races, but never at Santa Anita. The 4-year-old son of Jump Start trained by Bob Baffert for the Zayat Stables will fill that void on his resume Saturday when he runs in the Grade II, $150,000 San Fernando Stakes for 4-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.

“A mile and a sixteenth might be a little too short for him, but it’s a starting point,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who celebrates his 59th birthday tomorrow, Friday the 13th. “He’ll be better going a mile and an eighth.”

If all goes well, that distance would present itself to Prayer for Relief in the Grade II, $200,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 4.

A winner of three straight derbies last year—none the Kentucky Derby—Prayer for Relief is coming off a perplexing 13th-place finish in the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 25. Prior to that, the Kentucky-bred colt was third in the Oklahoma Derby; and won the Super Derby, the West Virginia Derby and the Iowa Derby, all under Rafael Bejarano, who has the mount in the San Fernando.

Baffert was puzzled over the disappointing Clark performance. “He was there, and then he wasn’t there,” Baffert said.

The field for the San Fernando, second leg of the Strub series: Prayer for Relief, Bejarano; Balladry, Joe Talamo; Riveting Reasons, Alonso Quinonez; Dreaminofthewin, Martin Garcia; Irish Art, Joel Rosario; Spud Spivens, Mike Smith; First Strike, Victor Espinoza; and Tapizar, Corey Nakatani.

Baffert had a busy few days since Santa Anita’s last racing day on Sunday. His 7-year-old son, Bode, was stricken with appendicitis and had his appendix removed early Tuesday at Huntington Memorial Hospital. Brave beyond Baffert’s belief, Bode is well on his way to recovery.

“He showed a lot of courage during the pain he endured before the operation,” Baffert said of Bode, “but once he was told he needed surgery, he said, ‘This is the worst day of my life.’”

Grade I CashCall Futurity winner Liaison worked in company with maiden Castaway on Santa Anita’s fast main track Thursday. Baffert caught Liaison in 1:11 4/5 for six furlongs, terming the drill, “beautiful” under Martin Garcia, while Santa Anita’s clockers gave the colt 59.20 for five furlongs. Castaway was timed in a minute flat.

Owner Arnold Zetcher was on hand for Liaison’s workout, which drew him closer to his 3-year-old debut in the Robert Lewis Stakes on Feb. 4.

Impressive maiden winner Princess Arabella also worked for Baffert, going four furlongs in 48 seconds, breezing.

Baffert, a finalist for an Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer of 2011 along with Bill Mott and Todd Pletcher, said he did not plan to attend the dinner on Monday at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles. Baffert is a three-time winner. His last Eclipse Award came in 1999, capping a string of three straight years.

“Actually, last year was probably one of the best years I’ve had, overall,” Baffert said. “I had a really good year, won all those Grade I’s, but I don’t think they (voters) really look at that too much any more. Mott had a great fall (capped by Drosselmeyer’s Breeders’ Cup Classic win), but I’ll settle this year for the same year I had in 2011.

“If I could have that every year, it would be good, winning with a lot of horses, on the road, and for different owners.”

One of Baffert’s major players is Santa Anita Handicap winner Game on Dude, who was second in the Classic. “Chantal calls him GOD (abbreviation for Game on Dude),” Baffert said, referring to Game on Dude’s regular rider, Chantal Sutherland.


Imponente Purse, a consistent Brazilian-bred gelding trained by A.C. Avila, takes on favored Jeranimo in Monday’s holiday feature, the Grade II, $150,000 San Gabriel Stakes for older horses at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

“We freshened him after the Clement Hirsch (on Oct. 2),” Avila said. “He had a long campaign, so we freshened him up and we’re starting again. He might want a longer distance than a mile and an eighth, but he’s capable at shorter distances, especially if he has a fast pace to run at.”

Jim Cassidy was still undecided on entering The Usual Q.T. in the San Gabriel. “As of today, yes,” the trainer said Thursday morning. “Tomorrow, who knows?”

The Usual Q.T., a two-time Grade I stakes winner, has not raced since last May 28 when he finished third in the Grade II American Handicap at Hollywood Park.

Rowdy Gal, daylight winner of her only two starts, tries stakes company for the first time in Sunday’s Grade II Santa Ynez Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 6 ½ furlongs.

“She looks like a nice filly, won both her races,” trainer John Sadler said of the Kentucky-bred daughter of Pure Prize. “She’s training well so it’s time to step up into a better race.”

The field for the Santa Ynez: Made to Love Her, Rafael Bejarano; Reneesgotzip, Corey Nakatani; Rowdy Gal, Joel Rosario; Painted Woman, Mike Smith; Lady Hokulea, Joe Talamo; and Candrea, Martin Garcia.


Steve Crist, Editor and Publisher Emeritus of Daily Racing Form, will conduct a seminar Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:10 p.m. in the East Paddock Gardens.

Crist will be covering the day’s races at Santa Anita and Daily Racing Form will show the seminar live on its website,

FINISH LINES: Services were held Thursday for trainer Lewis Cenicola who died of cancer Sunday at the age of 66. “I spoke with Lew shortly before he died,” said Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally, who conditioned John Henry to Horse of the Year honors in 1981 and 1984. “Cenicola was an integral part of our team, and it was team work that brought our success. Lew liked to party and be out dancing, but he was always at the barn at 4 in the morning ready to work.” In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to the Winner’s Circle Ranch, 150 Sawpit Lane, Bradbury, CA 91008 . . . Killer Graces, winner of the Grade I Hollywood Starlet, worked six furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Thursday in a bullet 1:12.80 for Jerry Hollendorfer. “She’ll run in either the Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 28 or the Grade I Las Virgenes at one mile on March 3, Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward said, adding that CashCall Futurity runner-up Rousing Sermon is being pointed to the Robert Lewis Stakes on Feb. 4 . . . M One Rifle, winner of the Grade I Malibu Stakes in 2009, continues preparation for the Grade II Palos Verdes Stakes on Jan. 21. He worked five furlongs Thursday in 1:00.60 for Bruce Headley . . . Mike Machowsky reports Caracortado came out of his astonishing last-to-first victory in Sunday’s Daytona Stakes in good order and has the Grade I Kilroe Mile on March 3 as his long-range goal. “First we’re looking at either the Arcadia (Stakes at one mile on turf Feb. 4) or the Cal-bred race down the hill on the 28th (Sensational Star Stakes at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf Jan. 28),” the trainer said. “I just want to get him going and see where we’re at.” . . . Happy birthday to Joe Talamo, who celebrates his 22nd birthday today . . . California Horse Racing Board member Bo Derek, who starred in the 1979 smash film, “10,” can be seen as a guest star on the NBC-TV show “Chuck” when it airs tomorrow night at 8 p.m. “They came to me with the script,” Derek said of Access Hollywood Live’s team of Billy Bush and Kit Hoover, who showed her a spontaneous strip tease of her beau for 10 years, John Corbett. “The script was hilarious.” . . . Allie Mac Kay of KTLA will be doing a hands-on segment at Bob Baffert’s barn Friday morning for her popular “Allie at Work” segment. The industrious Mac Kay has tackled assignments from those at Knott’s Berry Farm to the Progressive International Motorcycle Show, but being at Baffert’s barn is clearly a first. Viewers can expect to see Mac Kay shaking straw, walking hots and maybe even astride a stable pony . . . Friday’s seventh race is named the Rex Chapman Purse in honor of the former college and NBA star and Slam Dunk champion . . . Ismene, unbeaten winner of the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes for fillies, is recovering from surgery after having a chip removed from her right knee, Bill Spawr reports. “It was a very small chip,” the trainer said. “If it had to happen, this was an ideal situation. The vet who did the surgery said afterwards the area looked pristine and that she should come back 100 percent. We’ll give her 90 days off and hope to have her back at Del Mar.” . . . Trainer Robertino Diodoro will be Steve Andersen’s guest at Saturday’s Daily Racing Form seminar, 11:30 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens . . .There will be special holiday racing on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, when Santa Anita offers bargain concession fare, $2 beers, hot dogs and soft drinks. First post time is 12:30 p.m.