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Jockey Kevin Gomez Named Eclipse Award Finalist as Top Apprentice
Winners to be Announced Saturday, Jan. 21 at Gulfstream Park
LAUREL, MD – Maryland-based rider Kevin Gomez was named Wednesday as one of three finalists for the Eclipse Award as leading apprentice jockey of 2016.
Gomez, 22, joins Lane Luzzi and Luis Ocasio as finalists in a category that has been won by other Maryland-based jockeys such as Chris McCarron (1974), Kent Desormeaux (1987), Luzzi’s father Mike Luzzi (1989), Mark Johnston (1990), Ryan Fogelsonger (2002) and Victor Carrasco (2013).
Winners will be announced in all categories at the 46th annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony, hosted for the fifth consecutive year by Gulfstream Park’s Sport of Kings Theater Saturday, Jan. 21.
“I feel happy and I’m honored to be there. It makes me feel proud. Not all the bug boys get to be there in their first year of riding, so it means a lot to me,” Gomez said. “I think I’ve done better than I thought. I didn’t think I’d do as well as I have. Knowing I’m one of the three finalists makes me feel even better.”
Gomez rode for the last time as an apprentice on Maryland Million Day, Oct. 22, at Laurel Park, winning twice the following day on his first day as a journeyman. He ranked seventh in wins (29) and eighth in purse earnings ($734,089) at the Laurel fall meet that concluded Dec. 31.
Overall, Gomez finished seventh in Maryland with 58 wins. For the year, he won 85 races and $1,926,939 in purse earnings and captured the Claiming Crown Emerald Preview aboard Lacey Gaudet-trained Music Critik Nov. 6.
A native of Guatemala, Gomez was 13 when he came to the U.S. in 2007 to be with his father, Oscar Gomez, a perennial leading rider at Finger Lakes in western New York. Kevin Gomez won his first career race there on Aug. 25, 2015 with Aly’s Favorite Boy. Following a short stay on the New York Racing Association circuit, he arrived in Maryland in December 2015.
“Ever since I can remember, this is what I wanted to do,” Gomez said. “I think I learned a lot. I didn’t think I was going to learn that much but some of the jockeys there are teaching me and helping me to improve my riding skills. There are a lot of good riders here that help me. Alex Cintron, every time I do something wrong he sits next to me and explains things so I can improve the next time in the same situation and not make the same mistakes. He’s been helping me a lot.”
Luzzi, 19, began his career in Maryland in November 2015 before relocating to South Florida last June, ending 2016 with 88 wins and $2.2 million in purse earnings. Ocasio, based primarily in the Mid-Atlantic at Parx and Penn National, led all apprentices with 110 wins and $2.8 million in purses last year.
“He has come a long way,” said Gomez’s agent, Frank Douglas, a former rider who won 1,223 races from 1981-2003. “He got better and better and keeps progressing and gets better every day. He listens to what I have to tell him and he gets along very good with the trainers; that’s a big thing.”