No regrets for I'll Have Another's jockey

Even though his bid at Triple Crown glory was abruptly derailed by a freak injury to I'll Have Another, Mexican jockey Mario Gutierrez consoled himself with the realisation he has been on the ride of his life.


Gutierrez, who was set to be in I'll Have Another's saddle for Saturday's $1 million Belmont Stakes, was a virtual unknown just a few months ago when he was picked from obscurity to ride the Canadian-owned colt.

At the time, I'll Have Another was just another promising horse who had one win in three starts during his juvenile season, but that all changed when Gutierrez got on board.

They formed an instant bond and together won all four races they contested, including the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, the first two legs of the Triple Crown.

Had they won the Belmont, I'll Have Another would have become just the 12th horse to sweep the three-year-old classics, and the first since Affirmed in 1978.

But a swollen tendon suffered during a workout early on Friday ended his chances as the horse was pulled from Belmont and immediately retired from racing.

I'll Have Another's owner J. Paul Reddam said Gutierrez was in a state of shock when told the news but relieved the horse's injury was not life-threatening.

"He was sort of stunned, because he really didn't say much at first and I wasn't sure that he really understood what I was talking about," Reddam said. "He was sad for the horse. He has just had a tremendous bonding with I'll Have Another, as everybody saw him on the track.

"But his concern was 100 percent for the welfare of the horse and he expressed in the end no disappointment for him not getting a chance to run the Belmont. He's just glad that the horse is okay."


A year ago, Gutierrez was like every other struggling jockey, watching the Triple Crown races on television because no one would give him a ride in the big race.

The Mexican had left his homeland six years earlier and moved to Canada on a wing and a prayer, hoping that he would eventually make it in the United States.

Earlier this year, Gutierrez, who was taught to ride by his father, a quarter horse rider in Mexico City, took a gamble and moved to California but his grand plans were not bearing fruit.

Starved of opportunities, the 25-year-old was considering moving back to Canada when trainer Doug O'Neill saw him riding in a race and spotted something he liked.

He was given the ride on I'll Have Another and the pair instantly hit it off. The partnership may have ended prematurely on the brink of immortality, but Gutierrez was left with no regrets.

"I try to enjoy every single minute of it. This is once-in-a-lifetime," he told a news conference earlier in the week.

"My goal was to break into California circuit racing. So after all of this is done, I'm going to go back and make California my base and see how it is." (Editing by Frank Pingue)

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