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2012 Kentucky Derby: Gutierrez doesn't let inexperience stop him from guiding I'll Have Another to victory
By Mike Welsch
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.
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.
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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Michael Matz... I have this sack of potatoes you can ride next trip...
all you Bodey fans stop crying Smith gave him a good ride relax u will win the Preakness
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!!!
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.
Thanks to smith bodemeister didn't make History. And thanks to smith again Amazombie lost.
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!
Who was the impostor who rode under Mario's name Friday @ CD?
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.
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