Mario Gutierrez

Top Kentucky Derby Jockeys – Mario Gutierrez

When you think about horse racing in Canada, Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver is probably not the first place that comes to mind – unless you happen to be 2012 Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Mario Gutierrez. This picturesque-but-struggling racetrack is where Gutierrez got his first exposure to big-time racing after leaving his native Mexico in 2006 at the tender age of 19. He was the track’s top apprentice that year, and its top winner in both 2007 and 2008. Hastings was once the playground of actors working in “Hollywood North,” just as Santa Anita was back in the Golden Age of film. That was a while ago.

To do the Gutierrez movie script justice, you have to go back to Mexico. This is where Gutierrez actually got his start in horse racing. Born in 1987 in El Higo, Veracruz, Gutierrez was the son of local jockey Mario Gutierrez Hernandez. The younger Gutierrez began riding Quarter Horses at the age of 14. These may have been “humble” beginnings, but that doesn’t mean Gutierrez didn’t put in the time to learn the trade. Same goes for his years at Hastings.

After making the occasional stab at the Southern California scene, Gutierrez made his way to Santa Anita in the fall of 2011. He enjoyed some strong results there and at Hollywood Park, working mostly for trainer Troy Taylor, and after a chance encounter with agent Ivan Puhich, Gutierrez was given a workout aboard I’ll Have Another. Doug O’Neill liked what he saw and put the two of them together at the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes. They won as 43-1 long shots.

They won again at the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, and the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness Stakes. Unfortunately, I’ll Have Another was retired before he could race in the Belmont Stakes and complete the Triple Crown. However O’Neill has tabbed Gutierrez to steer He’s Had Enough on this year’s Road to the Kentucky Derby. They finished second to Shanghai Bobby at the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and fifth to Violence at the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity.