BALTIMORE | Mario Gutierrez’s life didn’t change after winning the Kentucky Derby aboard I’ll Have Another. Maybe there have been more interviews.
“Yeah. Before nobody wanted to talk to me,” the jockey said Thursday morning.
Now everyone wants to talk to Gutierrez, owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill going into Saturday’s Preakness Stakes. O’Neill has spent the better part of the past week enjoying his time around Baltimore and doing visits to a local hospital Boys & Girls Club, the Baltimore Ravens’ practice facility and Camden Yards.
“Riding. I went back to Hollywood Park to ride,” he said. “I got to win a race. I went to visit some friends in Vancouver, and now I’m here.”
Gutierrez wasn’t a household name before capturing his first Derby and still isn’t. But it wasn’t like Reddam and O’Neill knew they were getting a champion jockey, either. I’ll Have Another’s owner recalled eating at FrontRunner Restaurant at Santa Anita Park with his wife and O’Neill and catching a glimpse of Gutierrez.
“I remember looking at him riding in the stretch and the way that he was positioned on the horse and the way he moved with the horse and I said, ‘Boy, that kid looks like he can ride to me,’ ” Reddam said. “And doug said, I don’t really know.”
Reddam didn’t meet Gutierrez until before the Bob Lewis Feb. 4, but now he knows plenty. The 25-year-old, though, doesn’t want the attention and isn’t worried about not having ridden at Pimlico Race Course before this week. He’s on two horses Thursday and rode just twice at Churchill Downs before winning the biggest race of his life.
“You know what? The horse is gonna take me there. I believe in the horse,” he said. “He did it for me in the Kentucky, and I think he’s looking great. He’s gonna did it again. I’m not doing anything. The horse is just proving a lot of people wrong, that’s all.”
So is Gutierrez.