Updated on 06/01/2012 1:54PM

Belmont Stakes 2012: Cauthen likes Gutierrez's approach to Triple Crown mania

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Former jockey Steve Cauthen, who was at Belmont Park last Saturday to sign autographs, says there's no need for him to talk to jockey Mario Gutierrez before the Belmont Stakes. Cauthen feels the young Gutierrez will handle the pressure just fine.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Steve Cauthen has never met Mario Gutierrez. Nor does he want to – at least not for the next two weeks.

But Cauthen can empathize with Gutierrez. It was 34 years ago that the then-18-year-old Cauthen was counting down the days to the Belmont Stakes, where he would make history by guiding Affirmed to a head victory over Alydar to complete horse racing’s Triple Crown.

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Gutierrez, 25, is the rider of I’ll Have Another, who is the 12th horse since Affirmed to have a chance at capturing the Triple Crown. As often is the case when a Triple Crown is on the line, Cauthen’s opinion is a highly sought after commodity.

Cauthen was in great demand on Saturday at Belmont Park, where he and Alydar’s jockey, Jorge Velasquez, conducted a two-hour autograph session, rekindling memories of the 1978 Triple Crown duel while raising money for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

“It’s a long three weeks,” Cauthen said. “People are always saying, ‘are you worried about this, are you worried about that,’ putting negative thoughts in your head. But I think he’s got the right mentality. He says ‘I’m lucky to be here, I’m going to take it as it comes, I’m going to give 100 percent, I know my horse will give 100 percent. If it happens it happens.’ I think that’s a good attitude to have.

“He’s not enthralled with the limelight, he wants to ride races,” Cauthen added. “I felt the same way. I want to do my job. I want to do it the best I can.”

Cauthen was a regular rider on the New York Racing Association circuit so he had familiarity with Belmont Park’s unique 1 1/2-mile oval. He believes it’s important for Gutierrez to get some experience here before race day. According to Doug O’Neill, the trainer of I’ll Have Another, Gutierrez will be here next week and should get some mounts before and on Saturday.

“I think it helps to get a few laps in before the biggest race of your life, but it’s not a hard track to ride once you know where you’re at,” Cauthen said. “It’s a very fair track. But it is easy when you haven’t ridden here a lot to move too soon and make a mistake like that, which can be a fatal mistake.”

Four of the last seven Belmont Stakes have been won by jockeys who have ridden the race for the first time, including Jeremy Rose (Afleet Alex in 2005), Fernando Jara (Jazil 2006), Alan Garcia (Da’ Tara in 2008), and Jose Valdivia (Ruler On Ice in 2011). Neither Rose nor Valdivia was a regular on this circuit.

Some believe that Stewart Elliott may have moved a bit prematurely on Smarty Jones when his 2004 Triple Crown bid fell a length short. Others believe jockey Jerry Bailey played a part in coaxing him into that move.

Speaking of Bailey, the Hall of Famer is expected to show Gutierrez around Belmont Park when he gets here next week, according to O’Neill.

“Seeing the track and being able to converse with Jerry Bailey will be priceless,” O’Neill said.

Cauthen was impressed with Gutierrez’s ride in both the Derby and Preakness. From what he has seen, Gutierrez is “a level-headed kid” who has tremendous confidence in the horse and the confidence of owner Paul Reddam and O’Neill.

Cauthen said he has not been asked to nor does he plan to speak with Gutierrez before the Belmont.

“I’d like it to be known I wish him the best of luck,” Cauthen said. “I don’t want to get in the way. Nobody needs to talk to me. He knows what he’s going to go through. I don’t want to add any pressure. Not that I would add any pressure to him but there’s nothing I can tell him about that horse that he doesn’t know.”

* An earlier version of this article had jockey Gary Stevens riding against Stewart Elliott in the 2004 Belmont Stakes. Stevens did not ride in that race.

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