Twenty-five-year-old jockey Mario Guiterrez, known as ‘Super Mario,’ will start in the biggest race of his life this afternoon when he climbs aboard I’ll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Guiterrez, a native of Mexico, was plying his trade in Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada six years ago. Today, he finds himself in the Santa Anita spotlight riding for J. Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neil in the West Coast’s biggest Kentucky Derby prep race.
“This is a great opportunity,” said the 25-year-old Gutierrez, whose agent is 85-year-old ex-Marine Ivan Puhich. “I’m very excited. I came here not expecting this kind of thing to happen to me. I was hoping it would eventually, but coming this soon makes me very happy.
“It’s every rider’s dream to run in the Kentucky Derby and I’m no different. I think I would have a good chance with my horse, if he does well in the Santa Anita Derby.
Guiterrez piloted I’ll Have Another to an upset victory in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita on Feb. 4.
“I’ve worked him a few times and he’s training good. I worked him before I won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, I worked him at Santa Anita after that between races and I worked him at Hollywood. I just hope everything goes well,” he told Santa Anita Publicity.
“I started riding in Mexico City and rode there for eight months. Then I moved to Canada in 2006 and that’s where I rode most of the time for trainer Troy Taylor before coming to California to ride for him when he brought horses to Santa Anita. It was bitter cold in Canada, so it’s a huge difference riding in Southern California.”
Early on at Santa Anita, Gutierrez caught the eye of Reddam, who owns I’ll Have Another, and suggested that trainer Doug O’Neill give him a chance on the chestnut son of Flower Alley.
Guiterrez is poised to add to the story on Saturday as he seeks the first Grade 1 victory of his career. A strong showing this afternoon could also land him in Louisville, Ky., on the first Saturday in May.
Mario Guiterrez/Benoit photo