By Dick Jerardi
Jose Antonio Gomez, 21, was born into a horse racing family, his mother a groom, his father an exercise rider/jockey.
“I was born in Michigan,” Gomez said. “My parents were racing track people, moved around a bit. I was not even in school yet, we moved here near Penn National in Lebanon County. I was there most of the time growing up.”
He moved to Ocala, Fla to break babies when he was 16 or 17. He graduated high school, went to gallop horses at Arlington Park where “I wasn’t ready yet so they fired me.’’ He went back to Ocala and got better.
“I knew what I wanted to do,” he said.
He wanted to ride racehorses.
“From a little kid, I always loved it,” he said.
Gomez is now a 7-lb. Apprentice, splitting time between Parx and Aqueduct. He rode his first race last June at Monmouth Park, had his first winner in October at Belmont Park and already has 33 winners, 32 in 2022, after going 1-for-26 over seven months in 2021.
Gomez hooked up with trainer Kelly Breen last summer at Monmouth, found out he was riding for the first time when he saw the overnight.
“Once the doors open, the nerves go away,” Gomez said of that first ride.
Gomez broke his arm in January 2021. He needed surgery and was out for three months. Then, he went to Monmouth and began to work with Breen’s stable.
“He put me on a couple of horses,” Gomez said. And then he saw that overnight.
“I said ‘let’s go,'” Gomez said.
Breen put him on a few horses per month just to get him experience.
“From there, he asked me if I wanted to go to New York, said I’ve got an agent for you,’’ Gomez said. “I said ‘let’s go.'”
His agent at Parx is Bobby Martel who is no stranger to top jockeys.
His agent in New York is the legendary Angel Cordero, one of the great jockeys in history (7,057 wins, ninth all-time) who guided Hall of Famer John Velazquez through much of his career.
“He’s been teaching me a lot of things,” Gomez said. “I learn a lot just watching his old videos of his races. That’s been my journey.”
He lives in New York and rides at Aqueduct on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. He rides at Parx Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays.
“I just go back and forth, try to make the most of it,” Gomez said.
The results are proving that he is doing exactly that. Gomez has ridden in just 28 races. If he’s winning this much already, the future looks quite bright indeed.