06/28/2012 3:47PM

Hastings: Gutierrez should be big attraction


VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Management at Hastings is expecting a large crowd to show up on Monday to watch Mario Gutierrez ride St Liams Halo in the $50,000 Lieutenant Governors for 3-year-olds and up and Devil in Disguise in the $50,000 Chris Loseth for 3-year-olds.

Gutierrez had been one of the top riders at Hastings since he arrived here in 2006. He became a huge celebrity in Vancouver after he made a name for himself across North America by winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness aboard I’ll Have Another.

Gutierrez was the first call rider for trainer Troy Taylor and owner Glen Todd before he left for California last winter. Taylor and Todd are entering two horses in both stakes Monda,y but Gutierrez isn’t being allowed to make the choice of which horses he rides. Instead, Fernando Perez, who replaced Gutierrez as the main rider for the barn, gets to make the call, and he opted to ride Taylor Said in the Lieutenant Governors and Taylors Deal in the Loseth. Todd said Gutierrez’s dismal record of choosing which horse to ride when the barn had two or more horses in a race was the reason for letting Perez make the choice.

“Mario has just one win with the last 13 he chose,” said Todd. “Plus, it is only fair to Fernando, who has been working so hard for us this year.”

Taylor thinks Perez made the right choice in the Lieutenant Governors but wasn’t so sure about his decision to ride Taylors Deal.

Taylors Deal hasn’t raced since he won an allowance sprint on opening day April 14. Devil in Disguise was an impressive winner going 1 1/16 miles in the $50,000 River Rock Casino on June 2.

“Fernando thinks Taylors Deal is the better horse but Devil in Disguise is improving every day,” said Taylor. “Plus, Taylors Deal could come up a bit short.”

Leaney looking for upset

Trainer Patty Leaney is hoping to pull off an upset with Three Wood in the Lieutenant Governors. Three Wood won a $50,000 optional sprint May 13 and finished fourth behind Taylor Said in the Sir Winston Churchill June 3.

Leaney, who is 44, has trained just one stakes winner in her career that began in 1996. She won the Jack Diamond Futurity and the CTHS Sales Stakes with Dancing John in 2000.

A former show rider, Leaney started out at the track as an exercise rider when she was 18 and had a short career as a jockey beginning in 1991 and ending in 1993 when she became pregnant with her first child, Hayley. Leaney is also a mother to Jaymie, 11 and Kory, 9.

“I tried to pretend I wasn’t pregnant but when I couldn’t make the weight I knew it was time to quit,” said Leaney. “I loved riding show horses and never planned on being a jockey. I came to the track because I wasn’t one of the rich kids, so I had to find a way to make money in order to keep riding horses. I thought coming to the track and getting paid to ride might be a good idea and I’ve been here ever since.”

She learned a lot about horses from trainer Frank Barroby, who was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2010. She trained the odd horse but for the most part she was an exercise rider for Barroby until 2006, when she was severely injured when a horse she was working broke down. She broke her back, but it wasn’t the back injury that caused her to move to becoming a full-time trainer.

“I also had a concussion and that really made me slow down a bit,” she said. “I really didn’t want to forget my kids. It was always the plan to become more of a trainer and the accident helped me make the move.”

Leaney still exercises her own horses, though, and will occasionally work one.

“I’m a lot more cautious now,” she said. “I usually let someone else work them, but I will breeze the odd one.”

Leaney’s main clients are Kay and Sue Ohashi, who own Three Wood and six other horses.

Kay Ohashi is well known in Japan. He was a popular talk show host until he retired in 1991. He was elected to the House of Councillors in 2001 but didn’t last long, quitting his post in 2002. According to Leaney, the Ohashis used to own horses in Japan, but it became too expensive after he retired.

“They said it cost more than $35,000 just to buy a pony,” said Leaney. “They have been spending their summers here for a long time, and when they found out how little it costs here compared to Japan they thought they would have some fun and race horses here. They are a delightful couple and they really love their horses. They come and feed them carrots whenever they can and are just happy to be around the barn.”

Leaney is enjoying her life as a trainer and thinks one of her daughters might follow in her footsteps.

“Jaymie rides and she can’t get enough of this place,” said Leaney. “She just loves it here, and the only thing that keeps her away is when she has something to do with her pony.”

A win by Three Wood would be a nice way for Leaney to celebrate the Canada Day Holiday, but she knows he is in tough.

“I would really like to run him in a $50,000 optional race, but they haven’t been filling,” she said. “He is doing very well, though, and I know he’ll try hard.”