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Gomez still manages to win

Times Staff Writer

Even though Backus, the horse Garrett Gomez was supposed to ride in the $250,000 San Antonio Handicap on Sunday at Santa Anita, was scratched, the leading jockey still managed to win the Grade II stakes race.

Riding 6-1 shot Molengao for Victor Espinoza, who took off his final three mounts of the day because of some leg soreness, Gomez rallied to beat pacesetter Ball Four by a head for his fourth win on the card.

The win gave Gomez a sweep of the three graded stakes run over the weekend in Arcadia. He had taken the Sham with Kentucky Derby prospect Ravel and the Strub with Arson Squad on Saturday.

“I’d never ridden him before, but I’ve watched him run and I know what kind of kick he has,” said Gomez. “I know this horse has a solid kick and we’d be in good shape if I could find daylight. I was able to find a spot at about the three-eighths pole and things worked out.”

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Earning his first graded stakes victory, Molengao, a 6-year-old Brazilian-bred son of Royal Academy, may have earned himself a ticket to the $1-million Santa Anita Handicap on March 3.

Certainly, the Grade I race that will be headed by defending champion Lava Man is one of the possible destinations for owner-breeder Gonzalo Torrealba’s T N T Stud and trainer Paulo Lobo after Molengao won for the fourth time in 13 starts.

El Roblar, a 4-1 shot, finished third in the San Antonio, then came 2-1 favorite Preachinatthebar, Southern Africa, Fairbanks and Billy Allen.

In addition to Backus, Porfido was scratched.

Lobo said he would talk with Torrealba, who campaigned 2005 male turf champ Leroidesanimaux, about their next move.

“This horse can run on dirt or turf, so we have a lot of options,” Lobo said.

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Bardy Woman, who was ridden by Espinoza, had to be euthanized after suffering a compound fracture of the cannon bone in her right front leg entering the first turn of the third race on Sunday.

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A California-bred daughter of Unusual Heat trained by Alfredo Marquez, she finished with five wins in 26 starts. Winless in 14 starts on grass, she had won on the local main track under Espinoza on Jan. 18.

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Strong Contender, who was scratched from the Donn Handicap on Saturday, has a leg injury which may end his career, according to trainer John Ward.

Owned by John Oxley, Strong Contender, a 4-year-old son of Maria’s Mon, ran fifth in the Hal’s Hope last month in his first start of 2007. He has won four of eight and earned $618,000. He won the Dwyer at Belmont Park last summer and also finished third in both the Haskell at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J., and the Blue Grass at Keeneland.

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Mom’s Command, the 3-year-old filly champion of 1985 and a horse whose results are worthy of racing’s hall of fame, was euthanized over the weekend in North Hampton, N.H., because of old age. She was 25. Owned by breeder Peter Fuller and trained by Ned Allard, Mom’s Command, whose regular rider was Fuller’s daughter Abigail, won 11 of 16 in her career and earned more than $907,000. She swept New York’s Triple Crown for fillies during her championship season, winning the Acorn, Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks.

bob.mieszerski@latimes.com


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