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The Garrett Gomez Story: A Jockey's Journey Thorough Addiction and Salvation
By Rudolph Alvarado with Garrett Gomez
Caballo Press of Ann Arbor, May 2012, 340 pages hardcover

Jockey Garrett Gomez, nicknamed "Go-Go", has been a part of the competitive Southern California circuit for over 2 decades, riding for top outfits and racking up stakes victories both at home and elsewhere. The son of Arizona jockey Louie Gomez, born on the "equine birthday" of January 1, 1972, was raised in the family business and set his sights on a riding career at a young age. Unfortunately, horsemanship was not the only family tradition that brushed off on young Garrett, as he also picked up on their habits of alcohol and drug abuse, habits which followed him through most of his riding career. In his latest book, author Dr. Rudolph Alvarado tells the story of the popular jockey, from his beginnings in the southwest to his greatest victory to date, upsetting the popular Zenyatta in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic aboard Blame, denying the mare an undefeated career. Gomez personally selected Alvarado to be his biographer.

Gomez found the winner's circle for the first time on August 19, 1988 at Santa Fe Downs aboard Furlong Circle. Eventually he made his way to the Chicago circuit, well known as a place where many top riders started off, but his meteoric rise came to a halt during a spill on Arlington's turf course in July 1991. Home from hospital but unable to ride, he quickly lapsed into drug and alcohol abuse, addictions which never truly left him but which were controllable when he was busy riding horses both in the morning workouts and in races. When he returned to riding, he left the Chicago circuit for good and continued to win, leading a double life, as successful jockey on the track but an alcoholic and heavy drug user elsewhere, often hiding out at strip bars and clubs to keep his addictions away from his racing life. This pattern continued during his first, failed attempt to break through in Southern California.

A life of drugs invariably results in trouble with the law, and Gomez was no exception. He was often on the run from the police, then when caught would briefly enter court-ordered rehab but escape, and had almost ended his second marriage. It was California's Proposition 36 which finally forced his hand, choosing to actually complete rehab, at the very strict Impact Center in Pasadena, rather than go back to jail with the key thrown away as threatened by the judge. Having completed the program, he successfully had his license reinstated by the racing authorities with strict conditions. Since his return, he has stayed clean, has never served another suspension, saved his marriage, and quickly regained his reputation as one of North America's best jockeys.

The Garrett Gomez Story differs from most jockey biographies, as Dr. Alvarado focused on Gomez's addiction to drugs and alcohol, how it affected his life and those of his family and friends, and how he was able to save his marriage, his career, and possibly his life by conquering the addiction. Dr. Alvarado pieced together direct quotes culled from lengthy interviews with Gomez and his family, to tell this inspiring story. This is a remarkable tell-all book of a jockey who had it all, lost it all, and made what at times seemed an improbable comeback. Gomez is donating all of his proceeds from the book to the Winners Foundation, a non-profit organization located on the Santa Anita backstretch to assist horsemen with drug and alcohol addictions and mental health issues. He credits the organization with saving his life, and Executive Director Bob Fletcher plays an important role in the story.

The Garrett Gomez Story: A Jockey's Journey Thorough Addiction and Salvation has a list price of $34.47 and can be purchased from Amazon.com

Rating:     4/5

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