GARRETT GOMEZ, winner of 13 Breeders' Cup races including on Blame, who thwarted Zenyatta in the 2010 Classic, has been found dead. He was 44.
Gomez twice won the Eclipse award for outstanding rider and in 2007 he set a record for the most stakes-race wins in a season with 76, breaking Jerry Bailey's record. He won 265 races in total that year.
The rider's story had often been cast as one of redemption following a chequered past blotted by drink and drugs addiction, but he relapsed in 2013 and it effectively ended his career.
He was reportedly found dead on Native American casino property in his home town of Tucson, Arizona. On Thursday morning the exact circumstances of his death remained unclear.
Tony Matos, Gomez's agent in his later career, told bloodhorse.com: "He was a great person. That’s all I have to say. I'm just so sad. He was such a good person."
Gomez's most famous moment came when riding Blame to repel Zenyatta's late surge in the Breeders' Cup Classic, while he also rode star mare Beholder when she won the Juvenile Fillies' in 2012.
Gomez made a successful debut in August 1988 and was ultimately the winner of 3,769 races in a 25-year career. Though he rode his last race in October 2013, he had announced his retirement only in June of last year.