Photo: Mario Gutierrez
Mexican jockey Mario Gutierrez, who lost his chance to win horse racing’s Triple Crown because of an injury to I’ll Have Another, said he hopes his success attracts Hispanics to horse racing.
“It’s a world where stories are born and dreams come true - it’s only when you get to the race track and start following the horses that you begin to understand the complexity of the sport,” the jockey, now in Los Angeles to compete at Hollywood Park race track, said.
Gutierrez, who said that just four or five months ago “no one knew I existed,” believes that the decision of owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill was correct when they withdrew the 3-year-old from competition after the horse was discovered to have developed tendinitis in one of his forelegs.
“I’m a little sad because people wanted to see us in the race. We had prepared to close triumphantly” at the Belmont Stakes after winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
“They did what they did thinking of the horse. He was the one that got me where I am today, we had to think about his well-being. You get what I was given only once in a lifetime, all that victory and joy,” he said.
Gutierrez said that the week before the Belmont Stakes he was under intense media pressure with reporters investigating every detail of his life, about how he grew up in a poor rural area of Veracruz state, about his move to Mexico City and later to Vancouver, Canada…
“It’s been a really beautiful experience. I met famous people like Jimmy Fallon and Chris Rock, as well as actors in a series I like a lot, “CSI.” Thousands of people who had never gone to a race track went to see us,” he said.
His family, which still lives in Veracruz, has followed his victories closely, Gutierrez said, particularly his father, who was also a jockey.
The jockey, who stands 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighs less than 115 pounds, said that the media fever has died down considerably.
“Those reporters never got tired of asking questions,” the jockey laughed, adding that he wanted to concentrate on his routine of competing four days a week at Hollywood Park, getting up in the morning to train the race horses before doing his exercises.
“Some days I have to get up at 5:00 in the morning. You go to the race track, work with the horses, talk to the agents and trainers,” Gutierrez said.
“Every race has a prize. We earn 10 percent of what the horse wins if we finish among the first four. If not, you earn something like $60 or $70 for a race you lose. In other words, if you don’t win, you don’t earn,” Gutierrez said.
The jockey said that he must now “give a million thanks” to all the people who followed him in the Triple Crown and asked them to continue their support because there are more races ahead and “I have to find the next horse.”