MARIO SAYS HE’S ‘MENTALLY READY’
FOR TODAY’S KENTUCKY DERBY CHALLENGE
By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: It was a classic example of old-time broadcast journalism. TSN Team Radio’s Brook Ward went right to the source earlier this week for an ‘up close & personal’ interview with Mario Gutierrez as the celebrated jockey prepared for today’s 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
In a fast-moving nine-minutes, Mario talked about everything from how he handles the pressure of riding in what is known world-wide as ‘The Greatest Two Minutes in Sports’ to his game plan aboard Irap when the gate swings open shortly after 3:30 p.m. our time with 170,000 fans watching in person and millions more having access via NBC’s television coverage that is also streamed online this year.
It is almost unimaginable to think that Mario has won the Kentucky Derby twice in his only two appearances: I’ll Have Another in 2012 and Nyquist in 2016.
“I like to perform; I love what I do,” Mario told Ward. “It’s the biggest stage in horse racing and because I have been there before I know how to handle the pressure. Coming from Mexico to Vancouver and then California has meant ups and downs but I am extremely thankful the way things have turned out. I feel so much good energy from the people who have had my back. I am mentally ready.”
Regarding Irap, Mario says: “He’s a horse peaking at the right time. He will be at his best on Kentucky Derby day. Irap is not a nervous horse. He’s very relaxed. Our plan is to not necessarily take the lead. But you never know how things are going to develop.”
Mario didn’t have to single out his Vancouver-based mentor Glen Todd when he was talking about “the people who have had my back”. Todd has been with him every step of the way on his journey to competing with the most talented jockeys in North America.
It’s been a warm, rags-to-riches story for Mario, who arrived in Vancouver in 2006 as a shy 16-year-old who didn’t speak English and slept in the barns at Hastings Racecourse.
Join me, won’t you, in a mint julep toast to Mario’s continued success … starting today!