I’ll Have Another rallies down stretch to win Kentucky Derby 138
BY LEW FREEDMAN For Sun-Times Media May 5, 2012 4:38PM
Mario Gutierrez, I'll Have Another
Updated: May 6, 2012 12:08AM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The biggest long shot of them all in the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby might have been the winning jockey.
A year ago, Mario Gutierrez, 25, of Vera Cruz, Mexico, was in British Columbia watching the most famous thoroughbred horse race in America on television and dreaming of someday competing in the 1¼-mile Run For The Roses at Churchill Downs.
Someday showed up in a hurry, and under Gutierrez’s steady guidance, 15-1 long shot I’ll Have Another came from behind to win the coveted race Saturday and the $1.4 million payoff for owner J. Paul Reddam, who bought the chestnut colt for $35,000, and Doug O’Neill, the leading trainer in California in recent years.
“He’s really a calm horse,” Gutierrez said. “He’s just 100 percent all of the time. He is an amazing horse. I told everybody before the first time I rode him, I knew he was the one.”
Which was more than the record-setting crowd of 165,307 sensed when what shaped as a wide-open race that was bulging with potential contenders in the field of 20 horses erupted cleanly out of the starting gate. Right from the start — as expected — it was a speed duel at the front.
It was widely predicted that 45-1 long shot Trinniberg, a horse that had never run longer than seven furlongs, would dazzle the other 3-year-olds with a sprint to the first turn and Bodemeister would beclose. Bodemeister, a Bob Baffert horse named after his son, who was named after Olympic skier Bode Miller, actually led on the inside with Trinniberg right there on the outside and the field beginning to spread out.
I’ll Have Another spent the entire race hunting down the front-running Bodemeister, who went off as the 4-1 favorite, following a blistering early pace. Trinniberg, as expected, faded to 17th. I’ll Have Another thwarted Bodemeister’s attempt at a wire-to-wire victory after prepping with an eye-opening 9 ½-length victory in the Arkansas Derby.
Bodemeister, a rare contender who didn’t campaign as a 2-year-old, held the lead all through the backstretch, held it and held it. Coming off the final turn, Bodemeister was still in command, but I’ll Have Another was coming on strong.
I’ll Have Another paid $32.60, $13.80, and $9.00 on a $2 bet. Bodemeister paid $6.20 and $5.60 and third-place finisher Dullahan, also closing and at one time trailing by 13 lengths, paid $7.20 to show. Daddy Long Legs, a 26-1 shot, pulled up lame. While Baffert was going for his fourth Derby crown, trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who already has four, saddled his record 45th Derby entry. Optimizer finished 11th.
The horse’s run was aesthetically pleasing on a sunny, 85-degree day, providing excellent conditions on a fast track, but the time of 2 minutes, 1.83 seconds was not particularly fast. But the title is paramount. When his horse crossed the finish line O’Neill threw his arms in the air and jumped up and down. Then he donned a yellow hat nearly as gaudy as the fancy hats that predominate in the stands on Derby day.
“He’s three-for-three this year,” O’Neill. “I’m just so jazzed. Maryland, here we come, baby!” That was swift commitment to enter the Preakness Stakes, the next round of the Triple Crown, in two weeks.
Although those who enjoy drinking alcoholic beverages embraced the horse because of its name, the origin stems from owner J. Paul Reddam’s addiction to his wife Zillah’s cookies. He never could stop eating them and the Chestnut colt never stopped running after Bodemeister.
No clear-cut favorite came out of the spring races, making odds-making difficult. Reddam, for one, was not happy that his horse went off as only the seventh favorite after winning the Santa Anita Derby.
It didn’t help I’ll Have Another’s odds that the horse started in the 19th hole, becoming the first champ from that far outside slot. The early fractions were fast, with jockey Mike Smith guiding Bodemeister out of the crowd in 22.32 seconds for the first quarter.
“I’m really proud of him,” Baffert said. “He ran his race. He came up a little tired after those splits.”
At the half-mile pole, I’ll Have Another was seven lengths off the lead and with a quarter of a mile to go the horse was still 4 ½ lengths back. Gutierrez said he was not fazed. He started racing quarter horses and has been aboard them since he was eight.
“Part of my growing up was learning to ride horses,” he said.
Reddam, who said he chose the newcomer for the biggest ride of his life because “He just looked good in the irons,” said he was initially numb when I’ll Have Another pulled out the triumph.
Not Gutierrez. He was living a far-fetched dream and he was awake for it.