Mario Gutierrez seemed anything but overwhelmed as he met the press June 7 and talked about his upcoming bid for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 9.
With plaques of the 11 Triple Crown winners hanging from the side walls of the film theater at Belmont Park, Gutierrez said he was taking the Belmont as a challenge just like he did the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and the Preakness Stakes (both gr. I) aboard I'll Have Another.
“They were all first-time experiences for me,” he said, and added he had galloped horses around the Belmont oval earlier in the morning to get acquainted with the layout.
Gutierrez likely feels too much is being made of his inexperience at Belmont, and looked ready to prove he will finish off the historic Triple Crown. He will ride the same 1 1/2-mile distance of the Belmont in the June 8 Brooklyn Handicap (gr. II) aboard Boxeur des Rues for owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill, the same connections that handle I’ll Have Another.
“The Brooklyn will be very important,” Gutierrez noted. “I can go and see where to be on the track in a long-distance race.”
Gutierrez added that he plans on making Southern California his base following the Triple Crown, which seemed to please O’Neill, who kidded that the jockey was “a real pain in the (butt). He doesn’t listen to anyone.” Turning serious, O’Neill said, “We love his personality. He’s been a breath of fresh air, he’s four-for-four on I’ll Have Another, and he has a lot of talent.”
O’Neill stated that I’ll Have Another had “settled right in” in the detention barn being used for all Belmont Stakes horses since June 6. He added that the colt had a good day of training June 7 and continued to show a lot of energy in his gallops.
Trainer Dale Romans, who sends out Dullahan in an upset bid in the Belmont, had strong words for the detention barn, stating, “It’s ridiculous. There are too many people and too many horses all trying to do the same things at the same time. The people who made these rules weren’t thinking about the horse.
“It also brings a bad perception to the game and makes people think worse about the game. I don’t think the barn will affect the outcome of the race, but it may affect public opinion. If I’ll Have Another should lose, people will say they got him with the detention barn. It diminishes what he’s done and it would also diminish the winner.”