Mario Gutierrez – Winner of the 2012 Kentucky DerbyFriday, June 8th, 2012
[Editor's Note: This post was published just before it was announced that I'll Have Another will not be racing in the Belmont Stakes due to a swollen tendon in the horse's left front leg. The owner and trainer of the horse have decided to retire I'll Have Another, so he will never race again. We hope that I'll Have Another recovers quickly and enjoys his retirement at the young age of three horse years old.]
Mario Gutierrez, the Mexican horse racing jockey who just won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes and seeks to complete horse racing’s Triple Crown on June 9, has become an overnight sensation in the horse racing world.
“It’s been a journey,” says Gutierrez. “It’s been a big change since I won the first stakes with I’ll Have Another. Everything just switched around. Like any other jockey, I always dreamed of being at Churchill Downs one day, but I didn’t know it was going to come that soon.”
Background on Mario Gutierrez
Mario Gutierrez, 25, was born in El Higo, Mexico. He began riding quarter horses at a young age under the guidance of his father, also a jockey. The Vancouver Sun reports that Gutierrez grew up in a ‘poor family’ in the state of Veracruz on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Gutierrez emigrated to Canada at the age of 19 and began winning important titles such as the British Columbia Premiers Handicap in 2007.
This May Gutierrez astounded viewers by not only winning the Kentucky Derby, but also the Preakness with I’ll Have Another. While his odds were slated at 15-1 in the Kentucky Derby, his odds for winning the upcoming Belmont Stakes are listed as 2-1.
The Triple Crown: Three Races to Remember
The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes make up the three races of the Triple Crown, the prestigious competition that only 11 horses have won in the past 100 years.
No one has laid claim to the Triple Crown trophy since 1978, when Steve Cauthen became the youngest jockey ever to win the tournament at the age of 19. Since then, many jockeys have come close to winning but have been unable to win all three races. Part of the reason is the somewhat longer distance of the Belmont, seen as the ultimate test for three-year-old horses.
Latino jockeys like Gutierrez have been gaining prevalence in recent years. A large number of leading jockeys in the United States are from Mexico and Puerto Rico, including Mexico’s José Alvarez. So far, five Latino jockeys have been inducted into the National Museum of Racing.
The Horse of the Hour: I’ll Have Another
Gutierrez credits not only himself for the win, but also his horse, I’ll Have Another.
“It’s not about me,” says Gutierrez. “The horse deserves the credit. He has proven himself. I just want to prepare and be on the same level as him. It’s a great feeling when you’re riding a horse who’s giving you a hundred percent.”
I’ll Have Another, the chestnut colt that was originally sold for a very-low price of $11,000, belongs to J. Paul Reddam, a Canadian businessman.
“The horse is a working class horse from modest connections and that fits the owner, the trainer, the jockey, the trainer’s brother, everybody. So that’s what makes it so exciting, it’s so unexpected,” says J. Paul Reddam in an interview with ESPN.
Having won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, Gutierrez is poised to win the final race of the Triple Crown, The Belmont Stakes. We will be watching to see if Gutierrez and I’ll Have Another will emerge as victors on June 9. We wish them both ¡buena suerte!
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