By Richard Yates, Executive Director, HBPA of British Columbia
At some point in their life, if someone is fortunate, a moment arrives that offers them the chance to become more than they have been, or ever imagined they could be. And if they are really fortunate, they will find within themselves the things that will allow them to meet that moment and forge a greater destiny. For Mario Gutierrez, that destiny came calling at 6:21 p.m. East coast time on Saturday, May 5, 2012, and he found what was necessary within him.
Mario met his moment, and he was up to it. He was more than up to it. He grabbed it with those two real good hands of his and wrung out every thing it had to offer. There was nothing left on the table, no should haves or could haves or would haves, and no might of beens. He did it.
It was a brilliant ride. Mario started closer to the refreshment stands than the rail, but gradually, patiently, calmly, he had only one horse between him and the rail going into the first turn. Mario had the judgment to stay away from the fast pace in front of him, and make no mistake, I’ll Have Another has enough speed to have been much closer. It was a tactical decision by a rider who, at the same time, had enough of a sense of urgency to not drift too far back. Either too close or too far out of it and Mario Gutierrez misses his moment. Neither one happened.
At the halfway point, Mario began to meter out a gradual close on the leader that would get I’ll Have Another to the front a hundred yards out with enough left to get home. It was dead center perfect.
Of course, when you are riding to meet your destiny, it is helpful to be sitting on a lot of horse, and Mario was. But a scant few months ago, what Mario was sitting on in Southern California was Glen Todd and Troy Taylor horses and the occasional 50-1 shot from another barn. That was on a good day. There were not many mounts, and fewer live ones. Nevertheless, he got some run out of what came his way, and you could see him figuring out what he had to do to win. “Middle of the Track Mario” became the “Railmeister.” He looked good on a horse, and he caught the right eyes.
J. Paul Reddam, a significant Southern California-based owner, decided he liked what he saw, and Glen Todd was instrumental in hooking Mario up with an 85-year-old retired agent named Ivan Puhich who had done enough favors for people over a long career to call in some chits. The mounts got better, and then along came the 43-1 miracle in the Robert B. Lewis that was, in retrospect, no miracle. It was the best bet of the year.
Having the Todd barn was obviously a huge help for Mario, but others believed in him. Agent Wayne Snow took him on trainer Terry Jordan’s recommendation and broke him into a place that does not offer easy footholds. Hastings is tough territory. Most of us have been here a while, and we know what and who we like, and newcomers earn their way in. Wayne got him in, and eventually Drew Forster took his book and went on with it. However, in the final analysis, it was the three amigos, Mario, Troy, and Glen.
We are probably not going to see a lot of Mario on horseback at Hastings again, although it seems likely that he will come to ride horses for Glen and Troy from time to time in big races. Their relationship extends far beyond business, and in a way, Mario grew up here.
In the meantime, aside from the thrill of the race, what Mario has given us is this: the light that was shining on him on Derby Day was bright enough to reflect back on this place and those of us still here. It brightened up our corner of the world, and we feel better about where we are and ourselves. We are proud of Mario and, in many ways, we were riding with him.