Last-gasp title for Gomez as Asmussen hits 650
USA: Trainer Steve Asmussen's new world record for victories in a calendar year stands at 650 at the end of 2009, when he topped the American charts in terms of both races won and prize-money earnings.
Among the jockeys, Garrett Gomez snatched top spot in prize-money terms from Julien Leparoux when scoring on a chance pick-up ride in the final race of the year at Santa Anita on Thursday.
Steve Asmussen: record hit 650PICTURE: Edward Whitaker
Best known for the exploits ofRachel Alexandra and Curlin, 44-year-old Asmussen
operates a year-round operation based at several different tracks. He won 650 races from a mammoth 2,944 starters in 2009, when he topped the prize-money list for the third time with North American earnings of $21,876,405, more than $6m ahead of runner-up Todd Pletcher.
According to Equibase.com, Asmussen was also national prize-money leader in 2003 and 2008. He has been leading trainer numerically in six of the last eight seasons, having topped Jack van Berg's single-season mark of 496 in 2004.
He has been the leading trainer in number of victories for five of the past seven seasons and has won the Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer - the de facto champion - in three of those years, in 2004, 2005 and 2007.
In September, Asmussen followed Dale Baird, Van Berg, King Leatherbury and Jerry Hollendorfer as just the fifth trainer ever to reach the 5,000-victory milestone.
Garrett Gomez: left it latePICTURE: Edward Whiatker
Garrett Gomez won his fourth consecutive prize-money title - but he hadto wait to the final race of the year at Santa Anita to grab Julien Leparoux.
Gomez ended with $18.571m in prize-money earnings, just over $10,600 more than the luckless Leparoux, who went home to his native France for the Christmas holidays.
On Thursday, Gomez picked up the winning ride on the Julio Canani-trained Cenizo in an $18,000 claimer when original rider Martin Pedroza cried off.
"To have to go down to actually my last mount of theyear is unreal," commented Gomez. "I was lucky enough to pick up the winner. I was hanging around the jockeys' room hoping to pick up something and Martin didn't feel well."
Gomez has twicewon the Eclipse Award as the outstanding rider in the US. "I feel we can win the title again," he said.
Gomez was associated with several horses trained by the late Bobby Frankel, who died in November, including star filly Ventura.
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 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."
According to the Blood-Horse, Gomez was still $194 adrift ofLeparoux's mark before the final race. However, all starters in California are guaranteed $400 a race, so as long as his chance ride exieted the stalls, Gomez was certain to reach the top.
He joins Laffit Pincay (1971-74) and Braulio Baeza (1965-68) as riders to have won the money championship for four consecutive years. Bill Shoemaker holds the record of seven successive years (1958-1964).
Russell Baze: topped 400-markPICTURE: Gerry Cranham
A familiar topped the jockeys' list for races won - world leader Russell Baze, who reached the 400-winner milestone for the 13th time in 2009, when his total of 415 put him 24 ahead of Ramon Dominguez. Baze, 51, has topped the table 11 times altogether.
With Brazilian legend Jorge Ricardo being sidelined for six months this year for cancer treatment, Baze regained his world record for career victories in May. His career total stood at10,774 after December 31 racing, with Ricardo - now back in action in Buenos Aires - on 10,589.
North America's leading owner in 2009 was Michael Gill, who won 370 races from 2,247 starts, earning $6,669,950.
Top five US jockeys (prize-money)
Garrett Gomez $18,571,171 (210 wins)
Julien Leparoux $18,560,565 (2470
Ramon Dominguez $18,348,422 (391)
Kent Desormeaux $13,262,760 (177)
Joel Rosario $13,073,777 (284)
Top five US trainers (prize-money)
Steve Asmussen $21,876,405 (650 wins)
Todd Pletcher $15,454,429 (238)
Bob Baffert $9,574,394 (117)
Bill Mott $7,957,370 (116)
Jerry Hollendorfer $7,309,169 (273)
Statistics courtesy of Equibase Company LLC