Adapted from The Vancouver Sun
Everybody knows Mario Gutierrez now.
Six years ago, only a few in the world of horses knew his name.
No one else had heard of him. Now, after May 4, 2012, he is famous.
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Where they found Mario
Six years ago, Canadian horsemen on vacation
in Mexico noticed a young rider.
Terry Jordan is a trainer at Hastings Park in Vancouver.
He was looking for a young jockey to take to Canada.
Jordan heard about Mario, then aged 19. He got an interpreter to help him.
Then Jordan asked Mario if he would like to try riding in Canada.
Mario comes to Vancouver
Mario arrived in Vancouver. He spoke no English.
The first words that he learned were, “Nice horse, wanna ride him back?”
Within a year, in 2006, he was the top apprentice jockey.
Since arriving from Mexico six years ago, Mario has won 670 races.
Racing fans in Vancouver love him.
Mario grew up with three brothers on a small farm
in the town of Vera Cruz, Mexico.
“We rode a bicycle for four miles to go to school,” he said.
“My Dad was all on his own supporting the family. It was kind of tough.”
Mario Sr., also a jockey, taught his son to ride at age 12.
In 2004, after finishing high school, the teenager asked his father
if he could go to Mexico City to train.
This was where he got his chance.
This was where the Canadian trainer heard about Mario.
The Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Derby in the U.S. is one of the most famous
horse races in the world. The Derby is 138 years old.
Only 20 horses can enter this race.
These horses come from all over the world.
Horses entering this race must be three years old.
Jockeys must weigh less than 52 kilograms.
The track is two kilometres long.
Mario goes to the Derby.
Mario, now 25, entered the Derby. He rode a horse called “I’ll Have Another”.
This colt had won other races.
Paul Reddam, owner of the horse, named the colt.
This is what he says when his wife bakes cookies.
Before the race the young jockey said, “Those two minutes,
I believe they’re going to seem forever to me…those are going to be
the most important two minutes of my life so far.”
He was right.
On May 4, 2012, Mario Gutierrez won the Kentucky Derby.
He became the 42nd rookie to win in 138 years of the Derby’s history.
Mario said after the race, “I think we all need opportunity
and great things can happen….”
After it’s over
After winning a second big race, the horse had a problem with his leg.
“I’ll Have Another” has retired. But Mario will continue to ride.
Did you know?
The Kentucky Derby is also called the “Run for the Roses” because
a blanket of 554 red roses is hung over the back of the winning horse.