Garrett Gomez has two chances to capture his fourth consecutive national purse money crown today at Santa Anita. They’re not slim and none, but the jockey who turns 38 on New Year’s Day does have little margin for error.

The two-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s outstanding rider was $26,994 shy of leader Julien Leparoux’s $18,560,565 entering the final day of the year at Santa Anita, where he is named on two horses: 3-1 morning line third choice Red Arrow, half of an entry, in the second race, and 5-2 morning line second choice Fund Raiser in the fourth.

Victory in the second race would earn Gomez $31,800 and put him on top. Second money is worth $10,600. A win in race four is worth $26,400, which would leave Gomez $594 short of tying Leparoux. Second money in the fourth is $8,800.

If Gomez wins the title, he would join Laffit Pincay Jr. (1971 through 1974) and Braulio Baeza (1965 through 1968) as riders who won four straight years. Bill Shoemaker holds the record of seven consecutive years, 1958 through 1964.


Save for Zenyatta and an unsuccessful foray against males, Life Is Sweet could riding be an eight-race winning streak. As it is, the 5-year-old daughter of Storm Cat and stablemate of undefeated champion Zenyatta recorded four wins in those eight starts, including a smashing triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride Nov. 6.

Saturday, the versatile Life Is Sweet tries turf again in the $150,000 Grade II San Gorgonio Handicap at 1 1/8 miles.

“She was supposed to be a grass filly,” said Garrett Gomez, who rides the bay mare owned and bred by Marty and Pam Wygod and trained by John Shirreffs. “That’s where she did some of her better running early on in her career back East. When she came to California, she adapted to the synthetic really well.”

Life Is Sweet broke her maiden by nine lengths on Belmont Park’s turf course in October 2007, when trained by Bill Mott. Since moving West with Shirreffs, Life Is Sweet has four wins from eight starts, including last year’s Grade II El Encino Handicap, the Grade II La Caňada Stakes, and the Grade I Santa Margarita Handicap.

“She should be fine back on grass,” Gomez continued. “That’s kind of what she’s meant to do. She’s run against all the tough ones since she’s been in California. I really didn’t pay much attention to her grass form, but the fillies she ran against at the time were some of the best in the country.” Life Is Sweet has a 6-3-1 record from 15 starts, with earnings of $1,770,810.

The field for the San Gorgonio: Century Park, Tyler Baze; Rosa Grace, Joe Talamo; Treat Gently, Rafael Bejarano; Life Is Sweet, Gomez; Diamondrella, Alex Solis; Czechers, Chantal Sutherland; Lavender Sky, Ahmed Ajtebi; Teamgeist, Mike Smith; and Cat by the Tale, Joel Rosario.


Tuscan Evening has designs on a Grade I victory, but not on Sunday. That’s when the 5-year-old filly runs in the Grade III Monrovia Handicap at about 6 ½ furlongs on turf, a race trainer Jerry Hollendorfer hopes will lead to the Grade I Santa Monica Handicap at seven furlongs on Jan. 31.

For Team Hollendorfer, it was either use the Monrovia or the San Gorgonio Handicap as a prep for the Santa Monica on Pro-Ride. Since Saturday’s San Gorgonio is at 1 1/8 miles on grass, the shorter Monrovia made more sense.

“Our goal is to try and get a Grade I (win), and we also want to try her on the main track, so we targeted the Santa Monica on the 31st,” said Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward. “But she’s training too good to wait until then. It was either the San Gorgonio at a mile and an eighth, and then dropping back to seven eighths of the Santa Monica, or the Monrovia and then the Santa Monica. The Monrovia seems to fit the schedule better.”

Tuscan Evening, second to 2008 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner Ventura in the Grade I Matriarch at one mile on turf Nov. 28, has a 6-4-5 record from 21 starts. The Irish-bred daughter of Oasis Dream has earned $569,408 for owner William de Burgh of Rancho Santa Fe. Tuscan Evening is high weight in the Monrovia under 121 pounds.

The field for the 43rd running of the Monrovia, which goes as the seventh of nine races: Czechers, Chantal Sutherland, 115; Queen Of the Catsle, Mike Smith, 119; Reba Is Tops, Joe Talamo, 117; Royal Taat, Joel Rosario, 115; Hermione’s Magic, Alex Solis, 114; Pasar Silbano, David Flores, 115; Lindelaan, Jose Valdivia Jr., 116; Tuscan Evening, Rafael Bejarano, 121; Lemon Chiffon, Tyler Baze, 118; Empressive Lady, Victor Espinoza, 114; and Lucky Copy, Garrett Gomez, 115.


Finalists for the 2009 Eclipse Awards will be announced next Wednesday, Jan. 6. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), National Turf Writers Association (NTWA) and Daily Racing Form (DRF) vote on and present the Eclipse Awards in recognition of excellence in Thoroughbred racing. Winners in all categories will be announced at the 39th annual Eclipse Awards ceremony on Monday, Jan. 18, at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills.

The NTRA is a broad-based coalition of horse racing interests consisting of leading Thoroughbred racetracks, owners, breeders, trainers and affiliated horse racing associations, charged with increasing the popularity of horse racing and improving economic conditions for industry participants. The NTRA has offices in Lexington, Ky., and in New York. NTRA press releases appear on the NTRA web site,

FINISH LINES: When Shadow of Illinois at age 10 tomorrow seeks to become the oldest horse to win a Santa Anita stakes race in the $100,000 Sensational Star Handicap, he would surpass five horses that won stakes at Santa Anita at age nine, not four as previously reported. The five are Kona Gold in the 2003 El Conejo Handicap; Softshoe Sure Shot in the 1998 San Carlos Handicap; Super Diamond in the 1989 San Antonio Handicap; Desert Chief III in the 1965 San Marcos Handicap; and Olhaverry in the 1948 San Pasqual Handicap . . . Gary Mandella hopes blood is thicker than water in the Sensational Star. The 37-year-old son of Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella sends out Mobilized, a son of multiple stakes winner Soul of the Matter, who was trained by the elder Mandella. “There’s really no story behind it,” Gary said. “It’s just a coincidence. The horse has been third in his last two (races), and the one at Oak Tree (at 6 ½ furlongs Oct. 31) was more impressive than the one at Hollywood (at six furlongs Nov. 22), because he needs that extra distance. He’s kind of a (down) hill specialist, and this is my only chance to run him in a Cal-bred race where I’m not going to see (Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner) California Flag. It’s an ambitious spot, but it’s the one chance to avoid that horse. We’ll see if he fits with these.” . . . Santa Anita’s popular on-line handicapping contest ShowVivor kicks off tomorrow with a new cousin, WinVivor, which plays like ShowVivor, but instead of finishing at least third, your horse has to win. Contestants who survive the longest win a grand prize of $2,500. For details, log on to Also tomorrow, Santa Anita will add a Superfecta wager on the last race . . . All THOROUGHBREDS members will receive a free 75th anniversary long sleeve T-shirt tomorrow, New Year’s Day, at Santa Anita with paid admission, while supplies last. First post time is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m. . . . Barretts January Mixed Sale supplemental entries close Monday, Jan. 11. For further information, contact Kim Lloyd at 909 629-3090 . . . Steve Andersen of Daily Racing Form and Santa Anita program oddsmaker and simulcast analyst Jon White will be Jack Disney’s guests at Sunday’s Fans’ Forum, 11:15 a.m., in the East Paddock Gardens.