By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: In the days leading up to this year’s 73rd running of the BC Derby at Hastings it appeared Glen Todd and Mario Gutierrez were going to be back together again, albeit for a short but treasured time.
Original word from California-based Reddam Racing was that Mario would be riding Canadian Game in the Grade 3, $150,000 Derby and Todd would be pinch-hitting for regular trainer Doug O’Neill.
But the return to his roots by the revered jockey dubbed Marvelous Mario by Hastings regulars went sideways when Gutierrez was assigned to other mounts on the U.S. racing circuit.
Todd remained trainer of record for Canadian Game, who finished third in the BC Derby behind favoured Alberta invader Sky Promise and Craig MacPherson’s Weekend Wizard.
Fast forward to today with the scene shifting to this year’s closing card at Emerald Downs. Todd gets another chance to train Canadian Game for owner Paul Reddam, this time with Gutierrez – his unofficial adopted son – in the saddle.
Canadian Game goes up against heavily favoured Sippin Fire in the $100,000 Getaway Stakes for 3-year-olds.
“It is always special to have Mario ride for me,” Todd said. The emotion in his voice didn’t require further words.
The reunion will also include Gutierrez aboard Royal Privacy owned and trained by Todd in the $25,000 Pete Pedersen Stakes.
Jockey agent Wayne Snow muscled through a four-month process to satisfy authorities in arranging for Mario to arrive at Hastings from his native Mexico in 2006. Snow said at the time his efforts were well worth it and he was proven correct with Gutierrez being named Leading Apprentice in his rookie season and Leading Rider in 2007 and 2008.
Todd had taken Mario under his wing locally prior to his rise in the Reddam camp with eventual Kentucky Derby victories in 2012 (I’ll Have Another) and 2016 (Nyquist).
Through it all, Gutierrez and Todd have remained as close as ever.
This afternoon Mario’s Vancouver army of followers will be keeping a close watch on simulcast coverage from Emerald Downs hoping to catch a glimpse of the Marvelous One once again sharing the winner’s circle with his long-time Hastings mentor he still refers to as “Pop”.