The Jockey rooms at Betfair Hollywood Park and Hastings Park won’t be the only ones rooting for I’ll Have Another to win the triple crown on Saturday. There will be a very interested group of riders at Golden Gate Fields that will be gathered around the television with more than just a rooting interest. Their excitement showed up the first Saturday in May. I watched the Kentucky Derby in the jockeys room. When the horses turned into the stretch, I couldn’t tell which horse that was making a run at Bodemeister because I couldn’t hear the TV. Like thunder from above, the entire GGF jockey colony was upstairs rooting on their friend and former riding mate Mario Gutierrez.
They were yelling and jumping up and down, I could only imagine more than a few were using their imaginary whips trying to get I’ll Have Another to the wire.
The Mario Gutierrez story has been playing out now for a month since he started his magical run at history. By now, the racing world knows more about him than many people, even his close friends, did before that.
It’s been widely publicized that Gutierrez was a leading rider at Hastings before getting his big break. But not as many stories go on to say that he has also called Golden Gate Fields home.
In parts of 2009-2010, while Hastings was closed, Gutierrez would come and ride at GGF.
He rode the short winter meet in 2009 and won 9 of 62 mounts and followed that up with a 10 for 61 performance in the beginning of 2010. He then came back later that year and won 9 of 60 mounts. Combined he won on 15 percent of his mounts. He left just as many lasting impressions in the jocks room as he has on his whirlwind journey as of late.
“He’s just a down to earth, really humble kid,“ said track massage therapist Richie Rond. “We clicked as friends from the time he came here. We would go hang out after the races sometimes. I never met anybody that didn’t like him.”
Two months ago, Gutierrez returned to GGF to ride for John Sadler in the San Francisco Mile. I asked Rond if he talked to him much about the upcoming Derby.
“No, didn’t talk about it, he was the same old Mario,” Rond said.
One person that isn't surprised about Gutierrez’ recent success, is a guy who knows a few things about winning races. Russell Baze rode with him here and a bit at Hastings Park.
“He’s a good kid but more than that, he’s a very capable rider, “ Baze said. “I’m not surprised at all that he has done well with this chance. He’s won at every place he has been at.”
Trainer Steve Sherman used Gutierrez during some of his local stints and sees the advantages of sticking with a rider that fit’s a horse so well.
“ I would do the same thing. When he fits and he’s winning races, how do you take him off, you can’t, “ Sherman said. “He did really good for me. The kid is a good finisher and he’s done a great job.”
So not only will much of the racing world be rooting for Gutierrez, but he will have a track full of fans in the bay area, riding with him, as he tries to bring the sport its first triple crown winner since 1978.
[What would a Triple Crown winner mean to you? Send in your story or video and get published on HRN!]
GGF Using Cookie Blitz for Saturday
Golden Gate Fields officials will be making stops at various Bay Area locations to hand out large and tasty cookies that promote I’ll Have Another’s upcoming Triple Crown bid and also encourage people to attend Golden Gate Fields on Saturday, June 9, for the simulcast of the Belmont Stakes.
Copy on the front side of the cookie wrapper, in part, states, “Triple Crown Party, Saturday, June 9, Golden Gate Fields. Join us at the races! HALF OFF ADMISSION when you present this cookie wrapper at the admission gate.”
Copy on the back of the cookie wrapper explains that I’ll Have Another is named for owner J. Paul Reddam’s penchant for cookies and his usual response to his wife’s nightly query of “Do you want any more cookies?”
This week look for GGF officials at these locations:
-Wednesday, June 6, O.Co Coliseum, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland, 6 p.m.
-Thursday, June 7, Shattuck Ave. in downtown Berkeley, 11:30 a.m & -Friday, June 8, 14th /12th and Broadway, Alameda, 11:30 a.m.