It’s been days, weeks and months that everyone had been waiting for the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby. With numerous morning workouts completed and all the derby prep races run, the day had come and gone with a success story that everyone dreams of when they enter the sport.
The 2012 Kentucky Derby had plenty of buzz and rightfully so. Every horse had a chance to win. 14 trainers and 16 jockeys had an opportunity to win their first Derby. It happen to be a owner/trainer/jockey combination that never won before. In fact, it was the first time appearing in the big race for the owner and jockey, just the 2nd time for the trainer.
Doug O’Neill, Mario Gutierrez and I’ll Have Another shocked the Southern California area on February 4 of this year when the colt won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita at odds of 43/1 after a layoff of five months. O’Neill was very patient with this horse and waited two months for the Santa Anita Derby (G1). At odds of 4/1 and second choice to favorite Creative Cause, he outdueled the gray to win by a nose. Not getting much respect for those two wins and drawing the #19 post for the Kentucky Derby (no horse has won the Derby from the 19 post position), he defied all odds again, to win the most prestigious race in America. Will people finally give this horse some credit!
Everyone expected this to be a speed duel on the front end, but it never developed. Trinniberg and Hansen sat back and watched Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister go to the front and set ridiculous fractions of 22.32, 45.39 and 1.09.80 for the first six furlongs. Maybe they knew that those fractions were too fast and was waiting for the Bob Baffert trained colt to tire. That never happened. The Empire Maker colt kept rolling along and looked as if he was going to draw away from the field like he did in his 9 1/4 lengths win last time out. However, Gutierrez and I’ll Have Another had a different plan. Sitting 6th and 7th for most of the race, Gutierrez positioned his colt to make a move down the stretch. It was an incredible move that saw him make up several lengths, catch up to the leader halfway down the stretch and win by 1 1/4 lengths. Bodemeister would hang on for 2nd, a neck in front of charging Dullahan. Went the Day Well completed the board in 4th. The final time for the 1 1/4 miles race was a respectable 2:01.83.
Other Notable Results:
Union Rags, after a terrible gate where he got squeezed all the way back, found his way through traffic the entire race to finish 7th.
Previously undefeated Gemologist was close in 5th early on but faded to finish 16th.
The Flower Alley colt I’ll Have Another was bought for $10,000 as a yearling in 2010, then purchased again in 2011 for $35,000 at a training sale in Ocala, Florida by owner J. Paul Reddam. The name I’ll Have Another came from Reddam’s response to his wife’s cookies. They must be good cookies. I’m sure many more will be made now.
Trainer O’Neill has won several graded stakes over his career, but this was just his second trip to Louisville for the Derby. The first go around was unsuccessful as in 2007 his two colts, Great Hunter and Liquidity, finished 13th and 14th respectively.
For Jockey Mario Gutierrez, it a rise that any jockey dreams of when they begin riding horses. This story means more to me than normal as their is a family tie. In early 2006, my jockey agent Father Wayne Snow, brought this young 19 year old jockey weighing 105 pounds soaking wet up from Mexico City to ride at Hasting Parks in Vancouver, British Columbia. He won 91 races in his first season with a winning percentage of 20.8%. In 2007, Snow was able to get owner/trainer combination Glen Todd and Troy Taylor to ride the young jockey and it was a move that paid dividends for everyone. Over the next five years, Gutierrez would win numerous riding titles with several big stakes races added to his resume. You could see the writing on the wall that he was too good to stick around. After the meet in 2010, he tried the Northern California circuit and it was quite tough to crack into the Golden Gate scene as there were many jockeys competing for mounts with fields as small as 4-5 each race. He tried again after the 2011 Hastings meet further South at Hollywood Park and Santa Anita as Todd/Taylor brought a few horses. It was hard to find similar success they had up at Hastings. As time would go on, Gutierrez’s new agent Ivan Puhich was getting more mounts with other barns, but still nothing to get him noticed.
It happened to be one day, that Reddam and O’Neill were looking for a jockey to ride their three year old colt as the leading jockeys such as Rafael Bejarano and Joel Rosario were already on other horses. O’Neill and Reddam were having lunch one day and Mario won a race at Santa Anita. They said, who is that kid? O’Neill said, he rides with Puhich. As they say, the rest was history.
It’s been quite the ride for Reddam, O’Neill and Gutierrez as they all won their first Derby together. However, there is more work to be done. If this Flower Alley colt can run as well as he did today, he has a legitimate chance at winning the Preakness in two weeks time. Of course, the ultimate goal is to win the Belmont Stakes, but first things first.
Congratulations to all connections for winning the Kentucky Derby! It is quite the story. Good luck at Pimlico.