NEW YORK (AP) — Mario Gutierrez took a bow in the Belmont Park winner’s circle Saturday.
It wasn’t the salute he had anticipated aboard I’ll Have Another following the Belmont Stakes.
Gutierrez was presented a plaque hours before the Belmont by Carlos M. Sada, the consul general for Mexico based in New York, commemorating the wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
Gutierrez lost his chance for Triple Crown glory when I’ll Have Another was retired Friday because of a tendon injury.
Gutierrez addressed the crowd in Spanish and English as part of the ceremony.
“Everyone wanted to come and see my horse and we were so excited for today,” he said. “Everything happens for a reason. We’re not competing in the race anymore but it’s my pleasure to be here.”
Gutierrez, largely unknown before the Derby, later reflected on what I’ll Have Another meant to his career.
“He’s the one that brought us here,” Gutierrez said. “We have to take care of him. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here. He’s given this to me. I’ve got the Kentucky Derby. I got the Preakness. No one can take it away. It will stay with me the rest of my life, thanks to I’ll Have Another. He made that possible.”
Upon learning I’ll Have Another was scratched from the Belmont, Gutierrez was prepared to pack up and go home to California. Trainer Doug O’Neill and owner Paul Reddam convinced him to ride out the weekend at Belmont.
“They said ‘No, we’re sticking around’ It’s like every sport when something bad happens. You have to keep moving forward. This is my job. This is what I do.”
Before heading off to ride another race, Gutierrez reflected on what might have been.
“A lot of people didn’t believe in him since the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby,” Gutierrez said. “He proved them wrong. I know if he was 100 percent today, he would prove everybody wrong again.”
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