- Neal Boortz defends Hillary Clinton for representing child rapist
- House task force to recommend National Guard on border, faster deportations
- Top federal judge uses pizza to explain complex Obamacare situation
- Obama, Biden overhaul job training programs
- Drought-plagued Californians turn to paint to keep lawns green
- ISIL now forcing Iraqi shopkeepers to veil mannequins in Mosul
- 11 parents of Nigeria’s abducted girls die
- Genetic mapping triggers new hope on schizophrenia
- Turkish P.M. Erdogan won’t speak to Obama, but he’ll take calls from Biden
- Israel’s ambassador praises Obama, slams Human Rights Watch report
I’ll Have Another jockey Mario Gutierrez an unknown until two men saw his vast potential
Question of the Day
ELMONT, N.Y. — A drive from Veracruz, Mexico, to Belmont Park would take almost two full days and cover 1,992 miles. Throw in a detour to tiny Hastings Park in Vancouver and stops at race courses in California, and you get an idea of what Mario Gutierrez has gone through since 2006.
Then, he was a relatively unknown jockey at Hipodromo de Las Americas in Mexico City before Canadian trainer Terry Jordan took him to Hastings Park. From there, he still wasn’t widely known when owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill watched him from inside the FrontRunner restaurant at Santa Anita Park.
“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 recalled.
Reddam and O’Neill knew nothing. Not that Gutierrez was an apprentice rider at Hastings Park, nor his path there. They liked how he rode and eventually put him on a colt with similarly low expectations, I’ll Have Another.
After teaming up to capture the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Gutierrez and I’ll Have Another are one more major victory from completing the Triple Crown. The jockey’s impressive ride from no-name to center of attention is the purest piece of this bid for history, but Gutierrez deflects credit.
“More than anything, I’m glad that I keep not disappointing people, you know?” he said. “It’s not me. It’s just him. It’s just all about the horse. He just keep proving people wrong.”
So does Gutierrez. He had just a couple of victories in Mexico before his move to Hastings Park, and he was relatively unaccomplished still when Reddam and O’Neill put him on I’ll Have Another for the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in February. Before that race was the first time Reddam even met Gutierrez.
He and I’ll Have Another haven’t lost since.
And the 25-year-old hasn’t gotten lost in the waves of publicity, either.
“We’re blessed he’s wired in a special way. That’s like I’ll Have Another. There’s no way you can train a horse to do what I’ll Have Another’s doing. He’s just blessed to be wired a certain way,” O’Neill said. “They both seem to be thriving on all the attention and all the excitement. Instead of being nervous and anxious, they’re getting excited and pumped up.”
Even before the Preakness, Gutierrez conceded that his life after winning the Kentucky Derby included cameras and microphones. The interviews come in English and Spanish, as he flashes a smile and his quick wit no matter the language.
But racing acumen, even aboard a potential Triple Crown winner, doesn’t automatically make a star out of Gutierrez, whom O’Neill refers to as a “cool-handed kid.”
“I’ve been very impressed with his demeanor, his attitude,” said Steve Cauthen, the last jockey to capture the Triple Crown, aboard Affirmed in 1978. “He’s 100 percent confident [in the horse] …. I think that’s a great attitude to have.”
It seems like the only attitude Gutierrez possesses. Talking about coming to New York for the first time and riding the challenging racetrack that is Belmont Park, he quipped that along this run, “Everything here is a first time for me.”
As those first times pile up, the performances continue to improve. He and I’ll Have Another might have gotten a favorable trip in the Kentucky Derby, but he pushed all the right buttons in the Preakness. One hesitation, and the Triple Crown wouldn’t be on the line Saturday.
“He’s doing great. He’s doing very, very good. Great head on himself,” jockey Johnny Velasquez said. “Enjoy it. Enjoy the moment.”
Gutierrez is enjoying it, though without the slightest hint of ego, even on the verge of making history.
“Mr. Reddam and Doug, I got family coming from Veracruz when I grew up. … Those are the people that saw me when I didn’t have anything,” he said. “These kind of people, they keep believing in me. They put so much confidence on me. It’s just great to have those people. I’m feeling really lucky. I don’t want them to go ever away. I want to keep them forever.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- WHYNO: Tomas Vokoun gets unexpected Stanley Cup shot with Penguins
- Brandon Meriweather, Redskins' secondary ready for bounceback year
- Kirk Cousins embraces role as Redskins' offseason starter as RG3 rehabs from injury
- Capitals notes: Realignment won't prompt roster remake
- Despite Caps' first-round playoff exit, Adam Oates' first season as coach left a positive taste
Latest Blog Entries
- Redskins injury updates (5/23): WR Pierre Garcon, CB Josh Wilson each had labrum surgery
- Capitals 'love' Matt Hendricks, but how much?
- Wojtek Wolski signs in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League
- Tom Poti won't return to Capitals, plans to continue his NHL career
- Is Tom Wilson ready to be a regular for Capitals?
U.S. appetite for drugs begets violence migrants are fleeing
- IRS seeks help destroying another 3,200 computer hard drives
- D.C. appeals panel deals big blow to Obamacare subsidies
- 'Straight White Guy Festival' supposedly set for Ohio park
- Rick Perry: County jails in Texas have taken in 203,000 "criminal aliens"
- Hamas terrorists wear Israeli army uniforms to ambush soldiers in Gaza
- ISTOOK: The secret is out: 'Unaccompanied minors' are only one-fourth of illegal border-crossers
- Jewish woman booted from JetBlue flight over fight with Palestinian
- Tony Dungy doubles down on Michael Sam remarks: 'Drafting him would bring much distraction'
- Obama family set to buy $4.25M desert home in California: report
- Rep. Jared Polis' anti-fracking crusade riles Colorado
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq