It’s always nice to have options and you can safely say Jockey Mario Gutierrez has those right now. The Santa Anita based rider captured two stakes in California aboard Derby hopefuls on his way to being named this week’s Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for February 8th – February 15th. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.
Gutierrez went north to south this weekend in California, starting in the Bay area on Saturday at Golden Gate Fields. Mario had the mount on Frank Conversation for trainer Doug O’Neil in the Gr. 3 El Camino Real Derby going one and one eighths mile. The Quality Road colt became the first horse to complete the El Camino Real/California Derby double since Chocolate Candy in 2009.
After the win, Frank Conversation moved up to 14th on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard. The number one spot is held by his stablemate, 2-year-old champion male Nyquist. Gutierrez never worried even with the wide trip in the big field for the Derby. He rated mid-pack through much of the race and mounted a big run just after the six furlong marker and won going away to capture the top prize in the $200,000 feature.
Just a couple days later at his home track Mario would get a leg up from O’Neil again, this time it was for the 2016 debut of Breeders’ Cup Champion Nyquist in the Gr. 2 San Vicente Stakes. The Uncle Mo colt got out of the gate well from the rail in the seven-furlong dirt test and raced on the front at a brisk pace. Nyquist and Gutierrez posted a half mile in :44.2 yet managed to easily hold off a late run from Exaggerator and Kent Desormeaux after six furlongs in 1:08.2.
Of Mario’s mount, Exaggerator’s jockey Kent Desormeaux said “You’d have to break the track record to win the race, so that’s telling for both horses.” “They’re both very talented. I had a dream trip. The winner was too good.”
The 2012 Derby-winning rider currently holds down the eighth spot on the deep and talented leaderboard at Santa Anita. Last fall he won with all five of his mounts on a Friday afternoon in October at Santa Anita. Coincidentally, one of those five winners that day was a maiden-winning vicyory aboard Frank Conversation. He had accomplished this riding feat once before but it was at Canada’s Hastings Racecourse earlier in his relatively young career.
Mario finished this week with four wins from 15 mounts adding two second place finishes and three more thirds. His total earnings of $300,125 placed him seventh in earnings amongst all riders in North America.
JockeyTalk360.com spotlights the riders across North America and around the world who may be the bravest, toughest and most accomplished of all athletes. The Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week is selected by a vote of representatives of America’s Best Racing, the Daily Racing Form, Equibase, the Jockeys’ Guild, the Paulick Report, the Thoroughbred Daily News, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, Thoroughbred Racing Associations, and Turf Publicists of America.