Garrett Gomez was a world-class jockey and two-time Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey. Unfortunately, he career was also tangled up with addiction and substance abuse. Gomez was found dead on Wednesday in southern Arizona, from a possible overdose. He was 44.
Wikipedia stated that Gomez was born on Jan. 1, 1972, in Tucson, AZ. He dropped out of high school and began his career in New Mexico at age 16. Gomez’s piled up 3,769 victories in his illustrious career that also included 13 Breeder’s Cup wins. His career spanned 25 years.
Garrett Gomez – Career highlights
He led the nation in earnings from 200-2009 and won two Eclipse Awards as the country’s top jockey. The Eclipse Award is considered horse-racing’s highest honor. In 2007, Gomez has a phenomenal year: he won a record 76 stakes races. In spite of all his success, Gomez never won a Triple Crown race. He finished second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby aboard Pioneer of the Nile and third in the 1994 Preakness Stakes with Concern.
Gomez announced he would retire from racing in June of 2015. At that time, he hadn’t actually raced since the summer of 2013, when he checked into a rehab facility after 10 years of sobriety. His race at Keeneland in October 2013 ended up being his final race.
According to the NY times, Pascua Yaqui Tribe officials said that Gomez had been found unconscious on the floor of a guest room at the Casino Del Sol Resort near Tucson and was pronounced dead at the scene. Alfred Urbina, the tribe’s attorney general, said no foul play was suspected.
Garrett Gomez – Struggles with Addiction
In 2012, Garrett detailed his struggles with addiction in the book “The Garrett Gomez Story: A Jockey’s Journey Through Addiction & Salvation,” written with Rudolph Alvarado.
The books was praised by Claire Novak, from ESPN.com as a “no feel-good saga, no celebrity biography trumpeting a long list of accomplishments. While Alvarado takes a gut-wrenching, no-holds-barred look at the rollercoaster struggles and triumphs that have been Garrett Gomez’s life, the jockey reveals more than has ever been told. Painful and heartbreaking at first, the book ultimately becomes a celebration of redemption against all odds… a real story of one man’s battle to survive.”
The NY Times also mentioned that in 2013, Gomez told California racing officials that he was seeking treatment for alcoholism and dealing with personal problems. He rode only sparingly after that.
Gomez is survived by his second wife, Pam, and their two children, Amanda and Jared. He also had two children from his first marriage: Collin and Shelby.
When Gomez announced his retirement on facebook, he commented, “I enjoyed every horse I ever rode and I thank all of them for making my career d like to apologize to all my fans for leaving the sport the way I did.”
It is always terrible to see a talented athlete and gifted person waste away from addiction. It is too early to tell with 100% certainty if it was a drug overdose that killed Gomez, as the results are pending toxicology reports. If so, the sports world has yet again lost another legend from substance abuse.