OK, is this kid for real? We all know by now that Mario Gutierrez came to Santa Anita Park from tiny Hastings Racecourse in
In short, the 25-year-old native of
Well, four victories later and with history staring them in the face, Gutierrez and I’ll Have Another are now
For now, Gutierrez just wants to soak up his remarkable victory in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) before focusing his attention on the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and the Triple Crown.
“I’m trying not to think too much about the
So much has happened in his life since the day he was told by agent Ivan Puhich to go to O’Neill’s barn and work one of his 3-year-olds that was supposed to be a runner, having already finished second in last year’s Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) behind grade I winner Creative Cause before being sidelined with sore shins suffered in the Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (gr. I).
“At first I thought he was joking,” Gutierrez said. “I was surprised the way the horse moved. I knew right away he was a good horse. I told my agent afterward they weren’t going to use me on a horse this good. He was different from any other horse I’ve ever ridden. He was so professional the way he moved. It was like being in an expensive sports car with a lot of gears. He’d go faster every time you asked him. You have no idea how much he loves racing. He never hesitates. He loves to fight and catch horses. It’s an amazing feeling to be on top of him. I’m positive he knows exactly where the wire is. He’s capable of doing amazing things and has the biggest heart ever.
“I can’t be thankful enough to Mr. Reddam and Doug. They didn’t have to stick with me. They gave me this wonderful opportunity and I’m so happy I didn’t disappoint them. They didn’t listen to all the people who were knocking me down and telling them this was too big for me. Doug and Mr. Reddam are the coolest guys and they never put any pressure on me. They’re on my side and always have been supportive and give me confidence.”
Despite his mercurial rise to stardom, Gutierrez remains just as loyal and grateful to Hastings and all the people in
“I know I still have a lot to learn, and that everything I have right now is because of I’ll Have Another,” he said. “If it wasn’t for him I’d probably be back in
When told there were 12,000 people at
“It just makes me so happy,” he said. “They’ve adopted me as a Canadian. I’m glad to have them in my life and I don’t ever want them to go away. It is great that people now know there is a Hastings Racecourse.”
So, why did a young jockey from
“I didn’t choose
Gutierrez feels he’s gained a great deal of experience riding in Quarter Horse races and at a tight-turned track like
“I rode Quarter Horses from ages 12 to 17,” Gutierrez said. “Match racing is very popular in
"I was a kid racing with big guys and they told me about riding Thoroughbreds at Hipodromo de las
Gutierrez admitted he didn’t know much about the Triple Crown or Thoroughbred racing in
“I only knew about Quarter Horse racing growing up,” he said. “After I went up to
Now he is on the verge of making history of his own.
When Gutierrez won the Kentucky Derby, he said it was an emotional experience, and he could be seen openly crying as he neared the winner’s circle
“I was in shock,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it was happening to me.”
People say Gutierrez is so cool under pressure he has ice water in his veins. But he could only laugh at that.
“It’s I’ll Have Another who gives me so much confidence,” he said. “I’m just an ordinary person.”
Sorry, Mario, you may be a person and not an android, but there is nothing ordinary about you.