05/05/2012 8:46PM

2012 Kentucky Derby: Gutierrez doesn't let inexperience stop him from guiding I'll Have Another to victory

Tom Keyser
Mario Gutierrez, left, and trainer Doug O'Neill celebrate with the trophy after winning the Kentucky Derby with I'll Have Another.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Jockey Mario Gutierrez has ridden races for nearly half his life but until this week had never been to Churchill Downs or attended a Kentucky Derby - until Saturday, when he had the best seat in the house for the world’s greatest race, atop the winner I'll Have Another.

Gutierrez, 25, began his career riding Quarter Horse match races at the age of 14 in his native Veracruz, Mexico. He first came to the United States in 2005, settling in on a regular basis a year later at Hastings in British Columbia, Canada, where he’s won two riding titles. He moved his tack to Southern California at the end of the 2011 meet, first catching the attention of I'll Have Another's trainer, Doug O’Neill, earlier this winter at Santa Anita.

“We were talking one afternoon about who to get to ride I’ll Have Another when we brought him back this year," said O'Neill. "We knew we weren’t going to get Bejarano or Rosario. While we were having the discussion, we watched Mario win a race at Santa Anita and were impressed. I couldn’t have picked Mario out of a lineup at the time but I talked to his agent, he came over and worked the horse, worked him beautifully, and we decided to give him a chance.”

Teaming Gutierrez and I’ll Have Another proved to be a wise decision by O’Neill. The pair combined to capture the Grade 2 Robert Lewis by  2 3/4 lengths and the Santa Anita Derby by a nose over the odds-on Creative Cause in the colt’s only two Derby preps.

Despite Gutierrez’s relative inexperience on the big stage, and the fact he was forced to break from post 19, he became the 42nd rider in Derby history to win the race in his first attempt, orchestrating a perfect trip aboard I’ll Have Another.

“Like all jockeys, you always dream about winning the Kentucky Derby, but when you’re riding at a small track like Hastings, you never really believe it can happen,” said Gutierrez. “We had a good trip. I knew he was a good horse and was going to give me 100 percent. I loved the way he was stretching out when I asked him at the top of the stretch, although I really didn’t know if I could win until I reached the wire. This is so amazing. I have no words to describe the feeling. Everybody did such a great job, Doug and everybody else connected with this horse. I’m so excited. This is unbelievable.”

Gutierrez has not only become an instant success in Southern California, he has also quickly endeared himself to his fellow riders there.

“He’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet,” said Mike Smith, who rode runner-up Bodemeister in the Derby. “He’s got a brilliant personality and he’s come a long way in a short time. He’s got an extreme amount of talent and you haven’t seen the best of him yet. If I had to get beat, I’m glad it was by a good guy like him.”
Gutierrez surely has come a long way in a short time, from the jockeys' room at Hastings all the way to the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle at Churchill Downs.



Marianne More than 1 year ago
Inaccurate story. Mario rode two races at Churchill Downs on Friday, including taking at bad beat on a huge longshot for Reddam/O'Neill on the turf. Shoddy reporting continues at the DRF. JHBVTA24 had his facts correct in an earlier post.
Vin More than 1 year ago
wow marianne , thanks for clearing up tht ultra important fact
George M More than 1 year ago
Bravo Mario!! Great Ride -HASTINGS PARK -"The Greatest Little Race Track in North America" Thank You for giving us here a day to be pround of-We will miss you and unlike our Track here which after 120 years is under the threat of closing YOUR FUTURE among the best of the best has just begun.And just a note The Winningest Jockey Russell Baze Was Born in VANCOUVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Michael Matz... I have this sack of potatoes you can ride next trip...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Leparoux received the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey 2009. Lets see your sack of potatoes do that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He's the WORST Big Race RIDER in the Country>> PERIOD>>
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
He got Rags buried in 2 consecutive Grade 1s. You can't blame that on my potatoes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Earle Forbes More than 1 year ago
100 lb Jock vs 1 ton of horse, who do you think is in charge? Just so you know horses are not only trained to get them fit but schooled how to behave. Race circumstances cannot be duplicated in training especially a 20 horse field going 10 furlongs on a dirt track. The premier jocks do it once yearly these 3 yo horses do it once in their lifetime. Think before you hit post.
denali1 More than 1 year ago
all you Bodey fans stop crying Smith gave him a good ride relax u will win the Preakness
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Smith gave the worst ride I have ever seen. He went 45 and change in the first half mile of the Derby. He did all he could to lose that race. That's not sour grapes either because I won because of this. It was tied for worst Derby ride ever with Shoemaker on Gallant Man.
Clem More than 1 year ago
nah! thats just a stupid horse! doesnt understand to relax. has to have the lead, cant tolerate another horse in front of him. thats his flaw, some horses are just like that. for a jock to try and hold them is futile bcause the horse waste energy fighting it. a fatal flaw to an otherwise fantastic racehorse.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Isn't the problem Baffert's training...he just drills for speed speed speed. Horses can be taught how to relax. Tactical training is not Bafferts thing...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Your a DOPE>>
mrm More than 1 year ago
He will get better with more seasoning. But he is what he is.
LadyZen More than 1 year ago
It's terrific to see a jockey based here in SoCal to be having this kind of success. When Santa Anita opens in September, I'll be at the end of the tunnel waiting for Mario's autograph and I'm sure I won't be alone!! Great job, Mario and congratulations!!!
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
His coming to the deepest jockey colony and accomplishing this feat is no fluke. This kid has talent. Now he has to learn how to deal with success. To think that jocks like Gomez, Dominguez, Bejerano, Leparoux,and Rosario have yet to win a TC race, and this virtual unknown has won the Derby, you can only say "amazing". I've been lucky betting since SA. Time will speak for Mario G going forward.
_Mark_Hanna More than 1 year ago
2012 Statistics: •Starts: 141 •Firsts: 15 •Seconds: 22 •Thirds: 12 he has a long way to come....
Werner Gz More than 1 year ago
Thanks to smith bodemeister didn't make History. And thanks to smith again Amazombie lost.
Marianne More than 1 year ago
Zayat/Baffert karma of shafting stable riders Bejarano & M. Garcia for M. Smith got them in the end.
Greg Rouch More than 1 year ago
What Mario said about his horse after the race, if I understood him right, almost sounded like a love story. He said, "When I first met him...........I knew he was the one." Well, he knew it, alright!
Kitty Kladstrup More than 1 year ago
That is exactly what he said, and it hit me the same way, too. He knew it--you are right!
jhbvta24 More than 1 year ago
Who was the impostor who rode under Mario's name Friday @ CD?
LadyZen More than 1 year ago
Marianne More than 1 year ago
Never been to CD?. Mario rode two races at Churchill Downs on Friday, including taking at bad beat on a huge longshot for Reddam/O'Neill on the turf.
Paul Kirnos More than 1 year ago
Did anybody notice that Mario Gutierrez misjudged the finish line? Watch closely at the pole just before the actual finish line, and you will see that Gutierrez briefly stops riding and momentarily begins to rise up as if the race was over. Lucky for him, the horse did not lose much momentum and he was quick to realize his mistake and get back into riding the horse to the finish.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Yes! He ran out of run three jumps past it.
Earle Forbes More than 1 year ago
Hahaha Is there a bet that you can make as to who gallops out the best? I guess we can always dissect this a million ways. Presently there is only one horse and one jock with a chance at the triple crown this year. I'd love to see who's in front at the post come Belmont not three jumps past it
Anthony Allen More than 1 year ago
Yeah Paul. I noticed it during the live running, and was like, "What tha hell?" He knew he got Bodemeister, and thought that was it, all the while Dullahan and Went The Day Well were flying late. Am glad he got the presence of mind to realize is mistake, righted it, and rode on. Otherwise, it would have been one of the most embarrassing moment in Kentucky Derby history, because on the replay, Dullahan had dead aim on both him and Bodemeister. Am glad it worked out for him though and all the connections. He will learn from that, and realize as a rider, you must ride out your mount to the wire no matter what, cause you never know.
Earle Forbes More than 1 year ago
How can you sit watching a t v monitor and say mario misjudged the finish. I guess the fact that he is not yet accomplished the feats of jocks almost twice his age makes him a novice in the eyes of most. This game has a lot more losers than winners because opinions are always tainted with biases.
MarkDMillerJr More than 1 year ago
Hey Earle Forbes know your role... pal.. relax and stop getting at everyone on this thread.. it's their opinion pal.
_Mark_Hanna More than 1 year ago
Earle, watch his actions the moment Mario's mount hits the 1/16th pole....
_Mark_Hanna More than 1 year ago
sorry Earle...perspective?....I bet the winner....
_Mark_Hanna More than 1 year ago
he clearly started to pull up when I'll Have Another hit the 1/16th pole....