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Tommy Wolski's Sport of Kings TV - Tommy's weekly column from the province newspaper

Hosstalk - May 3, 2013

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Jockey Gutierrez's fame lasted barely 15 minutes

Date: May 3, 2013
Section : Sports
Page : A43
Byline: Tom Wolski
Column: Hoss Talk
Source: The Province

Getty Images Files
Mario Gutierrez wins last year\'s Kentucky Derby on I\'ll Have Another, but the former Hastings jockey will miss this year\'s big race and the horse has been retired
Getty Images Files Mario Gutierrez wins last year\'s Kentucky Derby on I\'ll Have Another, but the former Hastings jockey will miss this year\'s big race and the horse has been retired

Jockey Gutierrez's fame lasted barely 15 minutes

With Saturday's running of the 139th Kentucky Derby, North America's most popular horse race (shown at Hastings Racecourse at 3: 25 p.m.), today we look back a year to recall a major milestone for the sport in the Lower Mainland.

Jockey Mario Gutierrez, the former Hastings star who had moved to Southern California, captured the first two legs of the elusive Triple Crown with victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Gutierrez and his mount, I'll Have Another, became so popular they helped make Hastings among the most sought-after search names on Google.

This was supposed to be the start of a long and prosperous career for both, if only they could successfully complete that last hurdle, winning the Belmont Stakes.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. On the eve of the Belmont, I'll Have Another was scratched due to a leg injury.

For many unfamiliar with horse racing, it was thought a victory in the Kentucky Derby would assure him of a prosperous future, and what made it more special was that Gutierrez still referred to Vancouver as home. But as racing experts will tell you that is hardly the case, especially if that victory came with an unknown jockey riding his first Kentucky Derby.

Three riders who fit that category were Ron Franklin aboard Spectacular Bid (1979), Stewart Elliot with Smarty Jones (2004) and Gutierrez.

For Franklin, it was almost a career ending race. Spectacular Bid had been a favourite in the Belmont and lost.

Immediately after that race, Franklin was fired by trainer Buddy Delp and he retired shortly after that ride.

Elliott lost his chance for glory after critics panned him for moving too soon in the Belmont Stakes.

Knowing his dream of getting an opportunity to ride better horses would never became a reality, Elliott returned to riding in Pennsylvania, and remains a successful jockey.

He currently ranks 57th in North America in purse earnings.

As for Gutierrez, after last year's heartbreak of knowing I'll Have Another would not race in the Belmont, those better horses the public assumed would come along never happened.

As with Elliott, Gutierrez never blossomed. He remains grinding out a living riding in California and won't be competing in this year's Triple Crown races.

While his wins this season have fallen off from the glory days of Hastings, Gutierrez has won 15 races from 149 mounts and earned $775,249 in purse earnings. He ranks 91st in money won.

"Back in our heyday," says Hall of Fame rider Eddie Delahoussaye from California, "jockeys then had the luxury of riding for some of the biggest stables in the country. You almost had to wait for a name rider to get hurt to catch a break."

As with most professional sports, you're only as good as your last victory. In horse racing, nothing could be closer to the truth.

DERBY TRAIL! With 20 horses racing in the Kentucky Derby, it appears to be the most wide-open race in years.

Only three runners in the field are listed at less than 10-1. Favoured Orb is 7/2, Verrazano 4/1 and Goldencents 5/1, who will receive plenty of action. His co-owner is legendary basketball coach Rick Pitino who owns five per cent of the horse.

Goldencents' jockey, Kevin Krigger, will be hoping to become the first African-American to win this race since Jimmy Winkfield.

If his name sounds familiar, Krigger has ridden at Hastings

Another B.C. connection, owner Chuck Fipke from Kelowna, has Java's War (15/1) and Golden Soul (50/1) in the race.

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