Mario Gutierrez rides Taylor Said to victory in 77th Longacres Mile
Taylor Said held off Winning Machine in a close contest to make Gutierrez the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby and the Mile in the same year.
Seattle Times staff
AUBURN — Mario Gutierrez had felt like this before.
On the first Saturday of May, to be exact.
Less than four months after riding I'll Have Another to a victory in the Kentucky Derby, Gutierrez engaged Winning Machine before the stretch with his horse, Taylor Said, in Sunday's 77th running of the $200,000 Grade III Longacres Mile. The two horses slugged it out for a quarter-mile, with local star Winning Machine never giving up but finishing a head behind.
For Gutierrez, who became the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby and the Mile in the same year, this victory in the Northwest's premier race was just as meaningful as the win at Churchill Downs.
"The owner is like a father to me," a visibly emotional Gutierrez said, referring to Glenn Todd of North American Thoroughbred Horse Company. "I know how much this race means to him and (regular trainer Troy Taylor). I know this race isn't worth as much money (as the Kentucky Derby), but this is very big to me, and it's big to everyone up in Canada. This means a lot. A real lot."
Taylor Said, a 4-year-old gelding, entered the race off five straight wins, and had been dominating the competition at Hastings Park in Vancouver, B.C., where he is based. But he had to contend with an outside post position and defending champion Awesome Gem, the 2-1 favorite.
While Awesome Gem was closing ground in the stretch to finish third after running into traffic issues, this was a two-horse race in the final quarter-mile, as Awesome Gem finished 1 ½ lengths behind Winning Machine.
"The other horse kept fighting, and was coming back," Gutierrez said of Winning Machine. "That horse has a lot of heart, but so does my horse."
Taylor Said's regular trainer is Troy Taylor, but for this one race it was Mike Puhich, part of an important family in Northwest racing. It was Puhich's first Longacres Mile win.
"It doesn't get any better than this," Puhich said.
Taylor Said ran the mile in a speedy 1 minute, 33.79 seconds, even though the early pace set by Winning Machine was relatively slow. Taylor Said paid $7.20 to win as the second choice in the wagering.
Gutierrez rode Taylor Said's stablemate, St Liams Halo, to a second-place finish in the Mt. Rainier Handicap at Emerald Downs last month, but Todd and Taylor wanted Gutierrez on Taylor Said for the Mile. That proved beneficial to Gutierrez as St Liam's Halo was fourth.
"The year 2012 I will never forget," said Gutierrez, 25, who also won this year's Preakness Stakes on I'll Have Another. "Amazing things keep happening to me, one after the other."
For Frank Lucarelli, the trainer of Winning Machine, it was a tough-luck loss. One of the great trainers in Washington state history, he is still looking for his first Mile win.
"I had the inside post, so it made sense for me to take the lead," said Winning Machine jockey Javier Matias. "He ran so big, I'm so happy with how he ran. (Taylor Said) passed us easily, but my horse came right back. I don't think we ever got the lead back, but he dug in the whole way."
Class Included wins
Class Included, a 4-year-old filly, continued to cement her case as one of the great females in state history, winning the $65,000 Emerald Distaff by 5 lengths.
Without even being asked by jockey Juan Gutierrez, she swept past early leader Carrabelle Harbor before the stretch, and she could have won by a lot more with any prodding by Gutierrez.
"It's such a pleasure to ride a horse of this type, because they do everything right," Gutierrez said.
Class Included won for the eighth time in 14 starts and has never finished worse than second. She paid $2.60 to win in a field of four, and ran the 1-1/8 miles in a very fast 1 minute, 47.78 seconds.
Class Included has won four of five races this season and locked up divisional honors at Emerald with this win in the top race of the meet for older females.