By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: Word spread quickly through the shed row Tuesday when a CNN-style bulletin on Glen Todd’s newsletter read: “Mario Gutierrez Confirmed To Ride at Hastings on BC Festival Day – Monday, Aug. 7”.
It is always “breaking news” when Marvelous Mario announces he is coming home for a visit, albeit for only a day.
Before, during and after guiding I’ll Have Another to thrilling 2012 victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Gutierrez never failed to mention on U.S. prime time television interviews his love for Vancouver and Hastings Racecourse.
Rod Mickleburgh wrote in The Globe and Mail: “Mario is not someone to forget his roots. He still considers Vancouver his home and still considers Mr. Todd, who took him in and housed him for four years, his second father. Each time he returns to Hastings it is with an infectious grin as wide as the backstretch.”
Mario’s latest homecoming will be from California via Mountaineer Racetrack and Saturday’s $750,000 West Virginia Derby where he rides B Squared for owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill.
That is, of course, the same team Mario rode for in his 2012 run for the Triple Crown as well his second Kentucky Derby victory in 2016 aboard Nyquist.
B Squared has drawn post position 4 Saturday in an 11-horse field for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles.
No matter where he finishes in the West Virginia Derby, Mario will return to a hero’s welcome at Hastings on Monday. He loves the people and the people love him back. The fame and fortune he has achieved since leaving Vancouver for the major U.S. circuits has not changed the person who arrived here from Mexico City as an unschooled teenager who spoke nary a word of English.
There is a long list of Hastings guardians who contributed in no small way to Mario’s rags to riches story. He will be reminding each and every one of them on Monday that he hasn’t forgotten how they helped him along the way.