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Mario here Sunday, sophomore stakes, equine art, Taketa honored

July 13, 2012     E-mail this page to a friend!

Stories by Jacob Pollowitz, Emerald Downs

Busy day for Mario Gutierrez this Sunday at Emerald Downs

When Mario Gutierrez arrives at Emerald Downs on Sunday, July 15, the 25-year-old jockey will partake in a slew of activities.

The Kentucky Derby-winning jockey will autograph posters from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. in the paddock area, and then ride in five of the day’s 10 races, including two stakes events.

The color posters feature Gutierrez and I’ll Have Another in the stretch run of the Kentucky Derby, with fans asked to make a donation to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (

Gutierrez is driving from Los Angeles to Auburn, a 961-mile journey that will take him most of Friday and Saturday to complete. When asked about his trip to Emerald Downs, Gutierrez tweeted, “I have lots of friends and look forward to being there.”

Gutierrez announced last week that he would be returning to Hastings Racecourse for the rest of the summer, although he plans to travel to other tracks for stakes engagements.

A native of Veracruz, Mexico, Gutierrez rode his first North American winner May 10, 2006 at Hastings, and quickly became the track’s hottest jockey while winning titles in 2007 and 2008. Gutierrez would venture south in winters to Golden Gate Fields, but returned each summer to ride at Hastings.

Last winter, with the help of owner Glen Todd, trainer Troy Taylor and agent Ivan Puhich, Gutierrez decided to give the tougher SoCal circuit a try. He had modest success while riding 13 winners at Santa Anita, but more importantly Gutierrez caught the eye of owner Paul Reddam, who urged trainer Doug O’Neil to give Gutierrez a chance on their 3-year-old colt I’ll Have Another.

Under flawless Gutierrez rides, I’ll Have Another reeled off victories in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness Stakes before a tendon injury prevented a Triple Crown attempt in the Belmont Stakes.

Gutierrez recently returned to Hastings where he was mobbed by fans and patiently signed autographs, and Hastings officials said success hasn’t changed the quiet but affable jockey.

On Sunday, Mario Gutierrez returns to Emerald Downs for the first time since August 22, 2010, when he finished second on Summer Song in the $75,000 Emerald Distaff. Emerald Downs has a Gutierrez of its own, Juan Gutierrez (no relation), whose 55 wins rank #1 in the jockey standings.

Mario Gutierrez’ mounts at Emerald Downs: race #3, Starlight Gem; race #5: Mel And Al; race #6 ($50K Seattle Slew Handicap), Edge Forward; race #8 ($50K Kent Handicap), Regal Betty; race #9, Genuine Gem.

Sophomore stakes twin bill set for Sunday

For trainer Tom Wenzel, the 3-year-old stakes division this season has been like Prince Fielder in the Home Run Derby. Every time Wenzel steps to the plate, he hits one over the fence.

With a meet-leading four stakes wins, Wenzel will seek his fifth and sixth on Sunday, when he saddles Makors Finale in the $50,000 Seattle Slew Handicap for 3YO colts and geldings and Exclusive Diva in the $50,000 Kent Handicap for 3YO fillies-both at 1-1/16-miles.

Co-highweighted with D’honorable One at 122 pounds, Makors Finale must withstand another bid from the D’wildcat colt to preserve his unblemished stakes record at Emerald Downs. It’s been a two-horse race, thus far, for top 3-Year-Old at Emerald Downs. Makors Finale and D’honorable One dead-heated in the Auburn Handicap. And in the Coca-Cola Handicap, Makors Finale and D’honorable One appeared headed for a similar result until Makors Finale resurged in the final yards to win by three-quarters of a length.

Trainer Blaine Wright said D’honorable One would be fit and ready to even the score this weekend.

“My horse worked well (leading up to the Seattle Slew),” Wright said. “I’m expecting a big run from him. I hope he can turn the table.”

Wright welcomes the addition of the Italian Boy, a speedy sprinter who figures to provide Makors Finale company up front, a scenario that would favor D’honorable One.

Wenzel expects the pace complexion to change from the previous two stakes races, but he isn’t too concerned with it affecting Makors Finale.

“Italian Boy definitely adds a different mix to the race,” Wenzel said. “However, my horse doesn’t need the lead. He can come off the pace, too.”

Like her stablemate Makors Finale, Exclusive Diva seeks a clean sweep of her respective division. Already having captured both the Seattle and the Irish Day Handicaps, the diminutive daughter of Bernadini will have to run even better to capture the Kent Handicap.

Having to carry a career high weight of 121 pounds at a career long distance, Exclusive Diva will have a tough task holding off familiar foe Royal Moses, who closed 3-¼ lengths in the stretch to finish second in the Irish Day. It won’t just be Royal Moses this time, either, as Arizona Oaks winner Regal Betty ships in with Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winning jockey Mario Gutierrez picking up the mount. Regal Betty has been training forwardly at Betfair Hollywood Park, where she recently turned in a six-furlong bullet workout in 1:13 3/5 (1/6) on July 8 for trainer John Sadler.

No stranger to Emerald Downs, Gutierrez helped to complete the first dead-heat in Emerald Downs’ stakes history aboard Canadian shipper Holy Nova in the 2009 Boeing Handicap.

Equine Art returns to Emerald Downs, Lynn Taketa honored in Saturday’s fourth race

The Emerald Downs Equine Art Show 2012 celebrates its 13th year this weekend from Friday, July 13, to Sunday, July 15, on track level.

With more than $5,000 in prize money, a panel of judges—track announcer Robert Geller, Judy Ryan and Linda Thomas—will award prizes in over a dozen categories, including the Stanley A. Gilman Best In Show Award.

Kerry Dalton, the show’s co-chairperson, said she expects this season’s edition to be the best yet.

“Every year we are blown away by the quality of the art and the talent of the artists,” Dalton said. “We are so thankful for all the support from our returning artists, and welcome with open arms our newest contributors.”

Race fans and art enthusiasts are strongly encouraged to participate in this year’s Angie Crockett Memorial People’s Choice Award, which is voted on by the racing public.

Equine Art 2012 is presented by the Washington Thoroughbred Foundation in conjunction with Emerald Downs and the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association. For more information please visit

In celebration of the Equine Art Show, Emerald Downs also honors former committee member and contributing artist Lynn Taketa with the Lynn Taketa Memorial Purse during Saturday’s fourth race in the track’s Winner’s Circle.

Taketa, who passed away last August, grew up around horses and trained Thoroughbreds in the Northwest for 20 years. Husband and former jockey Jerry Taketa makes an appearance on Emerald Downs Live, which airs Saturday from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Comcast Sports Net.