Thrust from relative anonymity to the national spotlight with a victory aboard I’ll Have Another in last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, Mario Gutierrez has not only kept his ego in check, he’s thoroughly enjoying the whirlwind ride.
The 25-year-old learned to ride from his father, Mario Gutierrez, Sr., a quarter horse trainer, in Veracruz, Mexico. On a visiting Canadian trainer’s advice, the younger Gutierrez made his way to Hastings Park, where he started his career as an apprentice in 2006. He soon hooked up with one of Hastings’ premier trainers, Troy Taylor, and the pair enjoyed great success. When Taylor was ready to try Southern California, he invited Gutierrez along. Taylor returned to Canada this year but persuaded the rider to remain.
Through a series of “right place, right time” events, Gutierrez got to ride I’ll Have Another to victory in the Santa Anita Derby and despite pressure to get a more experienced pilot, owner J. Paul Reddam stuck with Gutierrez and was rewarded with a victory in the world’s most famous race.
Since his Derby win, Gutierrez has been on the ride of a lifetime. He’s been interviewed by ESPN and various other media outlets, attended his first NBA game (Lakers-Nuggets Tuesday night at Staples Center) and threw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium Wednesday night.
“That was a lot of fun,” smiled the jockey. “I got the ball across the plate and everyone was cheering. I went up to the Spanish broadcast booth later and met Fernando Valenzuela,” referring to the former star pitcher for the Dodgers.
By Thursday, it was evident Gutierrez was starting to show effects from the long week. “I didn’t get home until 11 p.m. last night. It’s hard to say no to anyone and I’m doing my best to make everyone happy. But I don’t want my life to change. I just want to get back to riding.” Gutierrez will have his chance in Friday night’s first race at Betfair Hollywood Park, where he’ll ride Blake for trainer Vladimir Cerin. He finally got some help Wednesday when Gary Stevens’ wife, Angie, offered to answer his phone and take over his scheduling.
Gutierrez has kept what amounts to a journal on his twitter page (@Mario_Hastings), making it easy to understand why everyone’s rooting for him.
Three weeks after winning the Santa Anita Derby, he was happy that he was approaching 200 followers. “3 followers away from 200 ,” the jockey wrote.
Before heading to the airport, his enthusiasm increased. “My breeze went great this morning 1:13 4/5, catching my flight tomorrow for Louisville!! #letsgo
He also tweeted a photo at the post position draw for the Derby and just before he rode his first race at Churchill Downs that Friday, he paid his respects by saying, “Riding with the best of the best.”
After he won the Derby, he still seemed amazed people were paying attention to him. He wrote, “OMG, almost 1000 followers ” He spent much of the next week trying to thank as many fans, friends and trainers via Twitter that he could fit into the day.
But as he soon found out, it’s hard to keep a low profile when you’re that much in demand.
FEMALE STARS PREP FOR UPCOMING STAKES
Several major stakes winning distaffers are gearing up for upcoming events at Betfair Hollywood Park.
Leading the list is Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss’ Zazu, winner of the Grade I Lady’s Secret last October and the Grade II Hollywood Oaks over Cushion Track last June.
The gray daughter of Tapit worked five times on Cushion Track during the last month, including a stamina-building seven furlong move in 1:28 3/5 May 5th. Trainer John Sadler expects the 4-year-old to make her seasonal debut in the Grade II, $150,000 Marjorie L. Everett Handicap – formerly the Milady Handicap – Saturday, May 19th.
Also pointing for the Everett is Include Me Out, winner of the Grade I Santa Margarita in her most recent start for Jay Em Ess Stable and trainer Ron Ellis.
Getting ready for the $250,000 Gamely Stakes, the first Grade I race of the Betfair Hollywood Park Spring/Summer meet (Monday, May 28) are Capital Plan and Nereid. Capital Plan, fresh off a convincing victory in the Grade II Santa Barbara Handicap, will either work six-furlongs on Cushion Track Saturday or the same distance on turf Sunday, according to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Nereid, a fast-closing fourth in her first start of the year in the Wilshire Handicap April 28, was kept busy by trainer John Shirreffs, working a half mile in 49 2/5 seconds Wednesday.
The 4-year-old daughter of Rock Hard Ten deadheated for the win in the Grade I American Oaks on the Betfair Hollywood Park turf last July.
Meanwhile, Mike Puype reports that Blinkers On Racing et al’s Turbulent Descent worked five furlongs in :59 4/5 on Cushion Track Monday and is “right on track” to make her 4-year-old debut in the June 17th Desert Stormer Handicap, the final major prep to the Grade II, $200,000 A Gleam Handicap July 14th.
The daughter of Congrats won the Moccasin Stakes and Grade I Hollywood Starlet at Betfair Hollywood Park as a 2-year-old and. The winner of the Grade I Test last August at Saratoga, Turbulent Descent is undefeated in three local starts.
Teddy’s Promise and Rumor, who finished 1-2 in the Time To Leave Stakes last Sunday, are also pointing for the Desert Stormer.
Mizdirection, partly owned by talk sports show host Jim Rome, will work Sunday and Mike Puype said he’s leading towards running the Mizzen Mast filly in the $70,000 Great Lady M Stakes at six furlongs on turf May 27th. A winner of four straight, including the Grade III Monrovia Stakes, Mizdirection is heading for a showdown with Marty Jones-trained multiple stakes winner Unzip Me, who is also being aimed for the Great Lady M.
CLOSING STRIDES —Saturday’s Lazaro Barrera Stakes lost a major player when San Pedro Stakes winner Midnight Transfer was injured in a five-furlong work at Santa Anita May 5th. Carla Gaines expects the Hard Spun colt to be sidelined “several months.” For those who missed it, Jerry and Ann Moss announced earlier this week on their Twitter page (@TeamZenyatta) that the champion mare is officially in foal to Tapit. Zenyatta gave birth to a colt by Bernardini earlier this year…..If at first you don’t succeed—Chilean bred Porfido, third in the 2008 Round Table Handicap and second in the 2009 Round Table, will try to make the third time the charm at the age of 10. The Chilean bred is one of nine entered in the marathon Sunday. Multi-genre band Devo headlines this week’s Concert Series after the races Friday night. Admission is $10, including entry to the races, and $20 after 8:30……..Track announcer and Television Games Network personality Frank Mirahmadi will be Kurt Hoover’s guest on the Inside Scoop Saturday, May 12 at Betfair Hollywood Park. Mirahmadi, who recently finished his first season as the race caller at Oaklawn Park, and Hoover will discuss several of the races on the program, including the $100,000 Lazaro Barrera Memorial Stakes.The Inside Scoop begins at 12 Noon at the Paddock Tote Board.
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