NEW YORK — Taking in the Manhattan skyline from atop the Empire State Building, Mario Gutierrez was a long way from his small hometown near Veracruz, Mexico.
The jockey checked out the view on a sunny Tuesday morning in his first visit to the Big Apple. He’d already visited the ride that got him here, having stopped by Belmont Park earlier to check on I’ll Have Another. Gutierrez and the colt will try to win the Triple Crown for the first time in 34 years on Saturday in the Belmont Stakes.
Standing 86 stories above the bustling city, Gutierrez, 25, smiled as a knot of photographers closed tightly in on him.
“Mario, over here,” they shouted. “Turn this way.”
He happily obliged as tourists craned their necks to see the short guy who is the poised to become the toast of the racing world.
Later, Gutierrez told trainer Doug O’Neill about his adventure, admitting that he felt dizzy and joking that the historic building was “2 or 3 inches higher” than the roof at Pimlico where he won the Preakness on May 19.
Gutierrez has been unflappable since being thrust into the spotlight with I’ll Have Another’s comeback win in the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
“He’s handled the pressure well and he knows his horse well,” former jockey Richard Migliore said. “He and the horse both have a lot of confidence in each other and that’s something that’s critical to their success.”
Migliore plans to walk Belmont’s 11/2-mile course with Gutierrez on Thursday, pointing out its sweeping turns and long stretch that make the layout different than the mile tracks where most jockeys ride.
• O’Neill delayed the detention barn check-in for I’ll Have Another.
The horse must report to a secure detention barn by noon today.
In the detention barn, every move and visitor will be closely monitored, a change in routine that has angered some trainers. New York racing officials mandated the last-minute move as part of new rules to ensure that the race is run fairly.
Instead of being spread out in barns around Belmont Park, all runners will be sequestered in stalls next to each other.
On Tuesday morning, I’ll Have Another turned in another in a series of strong gallops leading up to the race.
“He galloped great,” O’Neill said. “He looked good. Good stride. Good energy. Three more days of galloping and if we get lucky, ooo-fah.”
LUKAS HOSPITALIZED: Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas was hospitalized Tuesday after one of his horses reared up and kicked him in the head.
Lukas, 74, said from the hospital that he will be fine and he expects to return to the track today.
Jockey agent Ron Anderson says Lukas was in his barn at Belmont Park when Hamazing Destiny reared up and struck him. Anderson says Lukas was conscious and talking but needed stitches. He is scheduled to saddle Optimizer in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes.