The 25-year-old Gutierrez, who won the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. on May 5 aboard I'll Have Another, was originally brought to Vancouver and Hastings Park racecourse by Canadian trainer Terry Jordan six years ago. In his years at Hastings Gutierrez won the riding title twice.
While at Hastings Sunday he spoke with media and signed autographs until the stewards moved him on so the racecard could begin. He also visited the jockey room he spent so much time in, talking with friends, many of whom are also from Mexico, including current Hastings leading rider, Amadeo Perez. The affable jockey told the media that he spoke with the younger riders and told them to keep dreaming. "If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone," he said.
Mario Gutierrez: Santa Anita to Churchill Downs
Gutierrez began to make a name for himself in February when trainer Doug O'Neill gave him the mount for I'll Have Another at Santa Anita in the Robert B. Lewis
classic and, going off at 43-1, he won the race easily. Then on April 7 he won the prestigious Santa Anita Derby and, improbably, he was off to the Kentucky Derby. In winning the race in 2:01:83, Gutierrez became the first jockey to ride a Derby winner coming out of the 19th hole.
His big break came when Jordan was vacationing
in Mexico City in 2006 and saw the then-19 year-old Gutierrez riding at the Hipodromo de las America. The trainer was impressed with the young jockey, enough so that he took the time to help him with the paper work necessary and sponsor his move to the Vancouver racetrack.
Hastings Park in Vancouver
Hastings Park has been around since 1889 - first called East Park and also known as Exhibition Park - and major races at the track include the Lt. Governor's Stakes and the B.C. Breeders Cup Derby. The track has seen famous jockeys before, with Johnny Longden
, a Canadian, working a significant part of his career at Hastings.
Russell Baze, the jockey with the most wins in North American riding history, - 11,000 plus and counting - was born in Vancouver and has dual citizenship and while he is based in California, he continues to take mounts at Hastings. Longden rode thousands of races at Hastings and in 1965 became the first jockey to win 6,000 races, doing so at Hastings on Prince Scorpion. Longden remains the only person to win the Kentucky Derby as a jockey and trainer.
I'll Have Another: Sights on Triple Crown
I'll Have Another, who went off as a 15-1 longshot at the Kentucky Derby and stalked the pack throughout the race and then outdueled the favorite, Bodemeister in the stretch, is now preparing for the Preakness, where, with Gutierrez aboard, he will try to win the second leg of America's Triple Crown on May 19. The third leg of the treble is the Belmont Stakes on June 9.
No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978, and the last to win the first two legs of the crown and lose the third was Big Brown in 2008.