Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Woodbine connections hope Gutierrez enjoys 'Another' win

It was going to take an historic effort for 25-year-old Mario Gutierrez, who enjoyed his North American debut at Vancouver’s Hastings Park, to capture the Kentucky Derby from Post 19 – a post from which no Derby winner had ever departed - when he sprung from the gate aboard I’ll Have Another at Churchill Downs.

And yet, the end result of the expert ride by Gutierrez, tucked in seventh position and neatly gapped between two packs of horses entering the first turn, came as no surprise to Woodbine trainer Terry Jordan who discovered the young rider while vacationing in Mexico more than six years ago. 
Gutierrez and I'll Have Another after their Derby score!

“He learned how to save ground in Vancouver because it’s a five-eighths of a mile track,” laughs Jordan. “You learn how to move over to the fence there. If you can find your way around a five-eighths of a mile track, you can sure find your way around a place like Churchill.”

Gutierrez maintained a perfect stalking trip throughout the mile and a quarter classic and the young rider persevered the length of the stretch to reel in the front-running Bodemeister to win the Kentucky Derby in his first attempt.

“I thought it was perfect,” says Jordan, of the trip engineered by the young jock. “He sat there cool as can be, and for a young kid with his first mount in a $2-million race, what more can you ask of him. He has a lot of confidence in himself.”

Jordan, who hung his shingle at Woodbine in 2007 after many successful years on the west coast, first laid eyes on Gutierrez while watching horses train at the Hipodromo de las Americas race track in Mexico City.

“I had a condo in Acapulco and I used to go up to the races on the weekend in Mexico City and I saw this young kid riding,” recalls Jordan. “We needed riders in Vancouver and I thought, maybe I’ll see if I can recruit him for Vancouver. He was an apprentice and had only won one or two races at the time.”

Terry Jordan and top sprinter Hollywood Hit
Although Jordan didn’t have the opportunity to watch Gutierrez ride races in the afternoon, the young apprentice’s efforts in the morning more than impressed the veteran conditioner.

“He looked more than comfortable with what he was doing, and he was only 17 at the time,” he said.

Jordan went to the Mexico City track three mornings in a row and smiles at the memory of Gutierrez coming to sit at his table in the track kitchen.

“He brought me his first win picture, he was so proud of it,” says Jordan. “He just looked so natural on a horse, I thought, this kid he’s going to be okay if this is the way he’s going to look all the time.”

When Jordan offered Gutierrez a chance to ride full time in Vancouver, the young rider leaped at the opportunity.

“We took him down to the embassy and got the paperwork started,” recalls Jordan. “It took two or three months and finally he got to Vancouver and I got him an agent, Wayne Snow. He rode for me for the first year, it was ‘06. He rode all my horses in ‘06 or most of them anyway. I had a full barn in Vancouver at that time.”

The Jordan-Gutierrez combo was prolific during their brief partnership as the pair combined to win 45 races in 102 starts, including seven added-money scores, finishing in the money an impressive 71 per cent of the time.

While Jordan’s intention was simply to find good quality horsemen for the Vancouver track (he also brought a veterinarian to Hastings from Mexico), the trainer is thrilled at how Gutierrez seized the opportunity and made the most of it.

"I just thought he could help us because we needed riders and he certainly did,” says Jordan. “A lot of good things happened in Vancouver with him.”

And even though Jordan is now at Woodbine and Gutierrez has moved on from Hastings to ride in California, the young rider hasn’t forgotten his Canadian friend.

“He sent word with Luis (Contreras) to, 'Say hi to Terry and thank you' which was very nice of him,” says Jordan quietly.
Contreras, who finished 18th in the Kentucky Derby aboard Prospective, was happy for the success of his fellow countryman.

“I’ve know him for a long time,” said Contreras. “We used to ride together in Mexico but he left Mexico before I did and went to Vancouver.

“I was really happy for him because he worked so hard to get there. It’s one of the best things that can happen to a rider, to win the Kentucky Derby. I’m happy and proud for him. It was very exciting for the fans back in Mexico to have two Mexican riders racing in the Derby.”

Contreras has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success at Woodbine, last year collecting his first Woodbine jockey title, recording 212 wins on the meet while writing himself into the record books by earning more purses at Woodbine in one season than any other rider, collecting $11,563,915, edging Todd Kabel's 2003 mark of $11,284,853.

Contreras following his Derby trip

The affable rider smiles at the recollection of his first ride in the Kentucky Derby.

“I clipped heels (at the start) and almost came off,” grins Contreras. “I was happy just to finish the race. I had a little bad luck in the race, but that’s the Derby. It’s a very big field and Mario got the best trip and I had the worst trip!”

And Jordan, who can only shake his head in wonder at how far the teenager he spotted on a training track in Mexico has come, has only words of encouragement for his young friend who on Saturday will partner I'll Have Another in the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the U.S Triple Crown, at Pimlico Race Course, in Maryland.

“More success for him would be fantastic,” says Jordan. “I’m very happy for him.”

QUOTE OF THE WEEK (Retro Edition)
Legendary jockey Sandy Hawley brought in a 1970s newspaper clipping that earned a few laughs in the office this week!

"I try to keep up with the styles," he says, "but if there is something I don't feel comfortable in, I wouldn't wear it."
"Ladies, be careful with #Kegasus at the #Preakness, lest you become Pregasus." - warns prolific tweeter WiscoParty!

"Dixie Strike has made a menacing move from last...from last to second in the blink of an eye!" - - Track announcer Dan Loiselle spots a surging Dixie Strike ready to throw it down with front-running Tu Endie Wei!
Congtratulations are in order to jockey Steve Bahen on being named this year's recipient of the Avelino Gomez Award:
Regarded as one of the most hard-working riders in the sport, Bahen’s biggest career highlight came in Canada’s most famous horse race, when he teamed with Gino Molinaro’s T J’s Lucky Moon to take the Queen’s Plate at odds of 82-1.
It's a win he still covets.

“I’ll never forget that moment,” said Bahen, in reference to one of the biggest upsets in Plate history. “It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years. Time flies, but I’m happy with how things have gone. I’ve persevered. I’ve lasted.”

Kentucky Derby winning jock Mario Gutierrez received a hero's welcome at Hastings Park last weekend, as reported, with video, by the Vancouver Sun:

“I followed Mario the years that he was here and I think it’s terribly exciting,” said Robert Henderson, who drove from Chilliwack to Vancouver to pass along his personal congratulations to Gutierrez, while donning a button on his white blazer that read “Go Mario Go.”

“This is just magic, really. I was watching [the Kentucky Derby], believe me. It was great. I’ve replayed it so many times…It’s very thrilling that we have somebody from Vancouver to go on and do very well in this day.”

Are you a boxing fan? Then come on out to Woodbine on June 9 and join the Fight To End Cancer:

The Kingsway Boxing Club is hosting an event that will see local proprietors and personalities going a few friendly rounds to raise money for the Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation. The event, dubbed Fight to End Cancer, is being held at Woodbine Racetrack on June 9.

Boxing club owner Jennifer Huggins says she was spurred into action after cancer hit close to home at her family-oriented fitness club. Five members are currently undergoing treatment at Princess Margaret Hospital.


As always, keep track of the latest goings on in the world of horse racing by clicking into TripleDeadHeat's Woodbine News page or join in on the conversation by following TripleDeadHeat on Twitter.

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