Mario Gutierrez and Kevin Krigger aren’t what you’d call best friends, but they do have
one thing in common.
Both have emerged from racing’s doldrums to its pinnacle,
Gutierrez having done so by winning the Kentucky Derby on I’ll Have
Another last year in his very first attempt, Krigger poised to do the
same thing if Goldencents can capture the Run for the Roses on May 4.
There are other similarities. Gutierrez is 26, 5-7 and weighs
114 pounds. Krigger is 29, 5-7 and weighs 114 pounds. Each resides near
Santa Anita, Gutierrrez in Arcadia and Krigger in Azusa.
Gutierrez won the Santa Anita Derby last year on I’ll Have
Another trained by Doug O’Neill. Krigger won the Santa Anita Derby on
April 6 aboard Goldencents trained by Doug O’Neill. Next up: the
Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in two weeks.
There, except for their passion for the sport, similarities
dissipate. Gutierrez, from Veracruz, Mexico, has been riding since 2006.
Krigger, from St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, has been riding since
Gutierrez would be the last to counsel Krigger as the first
Saturday in May approaches.
“Krigger is far more experienced than I am,” Gutierrez said. “He has
more years riding, and I’m no one to give him advice. He has his own
people and his own horse. He believes in them and that’s the most
important thing, to have confidence.
“Krigger started way before me. I only have seven years riding experience with Thoroughbreds.”
Still, his achievement and memories are etched in stone, never to be erased. Gutierrez recognizes that.
“You look back and see what you’ve accomplished and it’s
unbelievable that you’ve won the Kentucky Derby,” he said. “Kevin can
look forward to a great experience.”
Krigger vows not to be nonplused by what lies ahead.
“I’m going to approach it as any other race,” he said of the
Derby. “It is what it is. It’s a mile and a quarter with 20 horses and
I’m just going to go ahead and do what I’ve been doing with Goldencents
all along, which is make sure he runs his race.
“I’m not trying to dictate his race because it’s the Derby. I’m
just going to ride my horse and ride the race. Goldencents, he has dealt
with the crowds pretty easily so far.
“We had a good crowd (33,005) on Santa Anita Derby Day. Before
the race he handled the paddock pretty well. After the race, he handled
the winner’s circle pretty well, and we had a huge crowd in there.
“We’re pretty confident the horse is going to handle everything, and we know that I am.
“We’re just ready to win.”
There’s more to the tale of tape, according to O’Neill.
“Horses like to run for both of them,” he said. “They’re both
very confident in their skills, and yet not arrogant. They’re both very
appreciative to the connections who give them chances.
“They’re both talented guys who were just looking for opportunity
to knock, and it did, and they’ve really taken advantage of it.”