Nyquist Isn't The First Horse Jockey Mario Gutierrez Has Ridden To Victory At The Kentucky Derby
Nyquist is still undefeated. The 2-year-old champion and morning line favorite galloped his way to victory Saturday at the Kentucky Derby. But while it was Nyquist's first trot into the Winner's Circle at Churchill Downs, his rider may have been feeling a bit of déjà vu. You see, Nyquist's jockey, Mario Gutierrez, has won the Kentucky Derby before. In fact, he's come close to winning a Triple Crown.
Gutierrez won the Kentucky Derby in 2012 riding I'll Have Another. It was the jockey's Derby debut, and what a debut it was. Gutierrez broke from the back of the pack to push I'll Have Another into the lead in the final furlong of the race. Trainer Doug O'Neill, who trained both I'll Have Another and Nyquist, praised Gutierrez in a post-race interview with NBC. "He was just so confident."
The rookie jockey, who first began riding in Mexico, seemed on a course to do the impossible after he rode I'll Have Another into first place at the Preakness Stakes a few weeks later. But a Triple Crown win sadly wasn't to be that year. An injury scratched I'll Have Another from the Belmont Stakes on the eve of the race and left a disappointed Gutierrez hoping for another chance at the crown.
A string of losses, however, reportedly plagued Gutierrez when he returned to Vancouver’s Hastings Racecourse following the Belmont Stakes causing some, even Gutierrez himself, to wonder if 2012 had been luck. But the jockey remained confident he would one day have another shot at the Kentucky Derby and the elusive Triple Crown. "I never spoke it out loud but I always knew when I was at Hastings somehow I was going to make it back to the Kentucky Derby," Gutierrez told Canada's Globe and Mail. "Even when I was doubting myself, deep, deep inside I never stopped believing in myself."
And then came Nyquist. The Thoroughbred and Gutierrez seem to enjoy a special connection, one that has pushed them to victory in all eight of the races they've run. "There is an emotion, an energy — it's love," he told the Toronto Sun. "I could tell the first day I worked Nyquist that he was special. It’s almost like I had been driving cheap cars and, all of a sudden, I'm in a Lamborghini."
Following his second Kentucky Derby win, Gutierrez will undoubtedly try to add a second Preakness title to his resume. But can he ride Nyquist all the way to a Triple Crown?