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Kentucky Derby 138 Post-Race Winner's News Conference Transcript
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, jockey Mario Gutierrez, also the owner J. Paul Reddam, and trainer Doug O'Neill.
We'll ask a couple of questions, then open it up. Gentlemen, let's get started. Doug O'Neill, let's get started with you. You've been here a couple of times before; had some success at Churchill Downs. I remember your owners that day had a shirt on that read, Getting lucky in Kentucky.
DOUG O'NEILL: That's right.
THE MODERATOR: Talk about what's happened to you here.
DOUG O'NEILL: I got extremely lucky when Paul and Zillah called me to train for him. They have a great group of trainers, and I'm blessed to be one of them.
This race is unbelievable. I can't believe it. Paul, he's a big owner, but he's also a big fan. It's an incredible feeling.
THE MODERATOR: First Kentucky Derby win for you here. How important is it for you?
DOUG O'NEILL: It's incredible. When you tell people you're in the horse racing game, they ask you, Have you won the Kentucky Derby? Now I can say, Yes, I have, 2012.
My brother Dennis, he's been there with me through the ups and downs, and there's been a lot of downs. So this is incredible, and I'm going to soak it up as long as I can.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Reddam, you've had some wonderful horses, good experiences here, and now you have a Kentucky Derby. Your thoughts on the race, your horse, what's happened to you today here.
J. PAUL REDDAM: Well, I think you win a race like this, everything has to go pretty much according to plan. That's the way it's been since the horse started back this winter.
When he came into Kentucky ‑‑ he did his primary work, of course, in California, and everyone was kind of wondering about that. Doug had a plan and he followed the plan, and the horse was doing super every day. We kind of greet each other every day with, Well, so far, so good. That went through today.
I'm just so excited for Doug and Dennis who picked out the horse, Mario. I was telling some folks that was the second time Mario has ridden on the dirt at Churchill, and the first time was earlier today. We got him the experience he needed. Went off flawlessly. Really happy for the whole team.
THE MODERATOR: How big a goal was this for you as an owner in thoroughbred racing? Was it the biggest thing on the horizon for you or just one of them?
J. PAUL REDDAM: I don't know how at this point anything could be bigger than the Kentucky Derby. If you hear of something, let me know (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Dennis O'Neill, you picked this horse out. Talk about what it's like to be here?
DENNIS O'NEILL: It really is. It's beyond belief. Somebody asked me earlier in the week what would it be like to win the Kentucky Derby. I used Bubba Watson's quote when he won the Masters: I never dreamt this far. I never in a million years thought we could do this.
Baffert always told us in the past talking to us, saying, If you ever win The Derby, there's nothing like it. And, boy, was that true.
THE MODERATOR: Really a first timer, Mario Gutierrez. First things first, where did you watch the Kentucky Derby a year ago today?
MARIO GUTIERREZ: I was in British Columbia at Vancouver, where I've been doing all my racing since 2006 pretty much. I watched it there. I saw Animal Kingdom win the Kentucky Derby that year.
THE MODERATOR: Did you have any dream at that point you would be riding in race a year from then?
MARIO GUTIERREZ: Like all jockeys, we all dream that one day fortunately I would be in the Kentucky Derby. At that time I was at Hastings Park and of course like a joke I had the dream, but I wasn't thinking it was going to be the next year.
THE MODERATOR: Let's talk about your experience in the race. You were in a great spot with I'll Have Another throughout. Talk about how the race went, especially when Bodemeister spurted clear at the head of the stretch.
MARIO GUTIERREZ: He broke sharp, as he usually do. He's such a professional horse. He's a really calm horse. I know he was going to help me 100% through the first part. In the end, he just give 100% all the time. As soon as you ask him, he throws everything on the race, and he didn't disappoint today.
THE MODERATOR: Did you feel you could catch Bodemeister?
MARIO GUTIERREZ: I know my horse was reaching every single step of the way, but I wasn't going to stop riding until I was passing the wire. That is when the horse race is finished.
THE MODERATOR: Everyone at the table appreciates that.
We'll open it up for questions now.
Q. Mr. Reddam, it's been written a lot that you saw Mario ride in California. What did you see in him that day that made you want to put him on your horse?
J. PAUL REDDAM: I don't know if he won or not, but he really looked good in the irons to me. I said, We need to try some new blood.
I want to mention there was some karma today because it was Cinco de Mayo, right, and we rode the Mexican rider.
Q. Your horse won the Santa Anita Derby. It was relatively overlooked this week. Why do you think that was?
DOUG O'NEILL: I think he was such a prize because of me training it and Mario riding it. If it would have been a Pletcher or Velazquez, I bet you it would have been 9‑2. How do you win the Santa Anita Derby and not be one of the top five choices?
I know the buyer numbers. He didn't put up crazy high buyer numbers. When they win the way he did, we were super confident in this colt.
Q. Doug, you changed the calendar in the barn. What's up your sleeve next? Trick worked great this time.
DOUG O'NEILL: I changed the calendar on what?
Q. In the barn, to make him think he had more time between races. You told me you were going to change the calendar in the barn to make him think he's got more time.
DOUG O'NEILL: We're going to change the calendar and make the Preakness be like the middle of June. This horse is so smart, though, he would figure that out (laughter).
Q. Mr. Reddam, talk about the team and about the fun that you guys have together. Talk about the entire operation.
J. PAUL REDDAM: The Doug O'Neill team is a lot of fun. The whole group tries to remember that racing is supposed to be fun first. There's not just Doug and Dennis and Mario, but all the guys that work very hard in Doug's operation.
There's a lot of laughs there, I would have to say. We're kind of a working class group, from the trainer, the owner, the jockey. We don't come from the bluest of blood for horse racing, and that's okay. The horse matches that absolutely completely, right?
I can remember Seattle Slew being bought for $17,000, how amazing that was. Now we got this horse for $35,000. In Seattle Slew dollars, he was probably cheaper.
Q. Why was he only $35,000? What were people seeing that they didn't like?
DENNIS O'NEILL: You know, he didn't breathe that fast. Generally shows you have to breathe 10 flat or 9.4 to be expensive. I think he breathes 10.2 or 10.3. Just had a beautiful way of going. He was a little weak behind. You could pick things on him.
But me doing this so long, working with Doug, I know what Doug can put up with and what he can't. Honestly, when he went through the ring, I said, This is a perfect horse. I thought he would be 60,000 or 80,000. When he went for 35, I was surprised.
He breathes okay. You could still see, he goes the same way now that he did then. A beautiful long stride on him.
Q. Did the horse break like that on his own, or did you have to urge him? How critical was that coming from the 19 hole?
MARIO GUTIERREZ: Like I say, he's a really smart horse. I let him run a little bit to have that position. He's so smart, he does everything pretty well. I just waited for him, push him a little bit to have that spot, and then everything from then on was from the horse.
Q. I'd like to ask Doug to just comment on Mario's ride as he went around the racetrack.
DOUG O'NEILL: He did a pretty good job (laughter).
No, you know, he did. The horse broke perfectly, which in a 20‑horse field, you got the starter, we schooled him in the gate the other day. Scott was such a cool guy. So great start from Scotty here.
You know, Mario, by mid‑stretch the first time around, just had great position; really had a trouble‑free trip. I love the way Mario said he really stretched for him down the lane. That's what we've been seeing here.
Since he's come from California, he's maintained that long, beautiful stride. I love the way he carries his head. He's such a beautiful, talented colt. The way he handled the crowd today, incredible.
Q. Mario, did any of the other jockeys give you any advice going into the race? What did they say to you after?
MARIO GUTIERREZ: I came here focus. I came here prepare. I know this is huge. I did my homework my own. I talked a lot to Doug O'Neill, Mr. Reddam. I haven't talked after the race with any other jockey, so I don't know what they're going to say.
Q. Doug, could you talk about what you saw in Mario when you first put him on the horse. Did he work him before?
DOUG O'NEILL: He did. I was having lunch with Paul and Zillah. We were talking about we were going to debut I'll Have Another this year. Dennis and I came up with a brain surgeon idea of starting him in an allowance race down the hill.
Paul immediately asked us if we were drinking. Then he said, You know what, you guys have been telling me how good this colt is. Why wouldn't you think about the Bob Lewis? I said, You know what, Paul, this horse is training that good. I see a good mid pack or better finish.
But we're not going to get Bejarano or Rosario, so who do you want to get? Just as we were talking, Mario had just won a race. Paul said, Who is that kid? I knew his agent. Ivan Puhich is a legend. I knew Ivan had him. I couldn't pick Mario out of a lineup at the time.
I had him come work the colt. They got along beautiful. Paul said, Let's give the kid a chance. Thank you, Paul, because this kid can really ride. Actually, I just hope he doesn't get too big to where we can't get him. Usually what happens with these jockeys, they got so popular and you're like, Wait a second, did you forget about us, Mario?
Q. Doug, congratulations. First Santa Anita Derby winner Charlie Whittingham came here in 1979. Just memories of Charlie during that year, what you were doing then, and what impact will this have on West Coast Santa Anita Racing.
DOUG O'NEILL: I don't think there's anyplace with better weather than Southern California. Santa Anita is just an unbelievable facility. They've got new management over there. Mark is now the CEO. I think there's a lot of good stuff going on in Southern California.
Having the Santa Anita Derby winner win the Kentucky Derby, we're carrying the flag for Southern California. Any horsemen that have any interest in beautiful weather and good purses, come to Southern California, because it's a great place to train, a great place to live.
I can't say enough about Southern California.
Actually, when I first started, Charlie Whittingham was the man. I remember being on the trainer's stand with him just in awe of him. So to be the next guy who has won the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby, it's just an unbelievable honor.
Q. Mr. Reddam, you could have your choice of pretty much any trainer. Could you talk about when your relationship started with Doug and why, what his best qualities are, why you use him.
J. PAUL REDDAM: Well, in 2004, a friend of mine claimed a horse with Doug and sold me a piece of the horse after he claimed it. Doug started to call me every day and say how this 20,000 claimer jogged well, he ate well. This Doug O'Neill guy is really nice. He's calling me every day to tell me about this one‑quarter of one horse that I have.
I have all these other horses and they're not calling me. It took me about 10 years to figure out what happened (laughter).
The biggest thing about Doug and the crew is that he's a lot of fun and he's not afraid to talk about things, to listen. It's not his way or the highway. Sometimes, if anything, he might take too much input from his owners, including me.
I just feel like we have a very good chemistry. It culminated with today.
Q. Mr. Reddam, take us maybe quickly back through your involvement in this industry. What got you in? What keeps you in?
J. PAUL REDDAM: Well, horse racing is the most dangerous kind of addiction because it has intermittent reinforcements, right? Every once in a while something good happens, and that keeps you gambling or buying horses, what have you.
It started for me in high school when a friend of mine was a groom at the local harness track. We used to skip school a little bit and go bet. When I came out to California in 1979, I was working on my doctorate. I went to Santa Anita one day and, Oh, my God, look at this place.
I was fortunate enough to see, the first year I was there, Spectacular Bid, his run. I was hooked. I never really dreamed that I would be in a position to own racehorses, but I got very lucky in my life and it happened. I guess I'm still pretty lucky.
Q. Mario, can you repeat what you said in both of the questions you were asked in Spanish.
MARIO GUTIERREZ: He asked me about a lot of the media didn't believe in myself. They really don't know anything about me.
But I grew up with horses since I was a little kid, since I was eight years old on a farm in Mexico City, Vera Cruz. I start riding horses since I was 12. Pretty much all my life I've been riding horses.
I rode in Mexico City. Like nobody knows where I spend my six years of riding in Vancouver. Top trainers, top owners, of course, they're not going to know anything about me. But I'm glad that this happened to me.
I think we all need opportunity and great things can happen. I'm so thankful that this happened to me. I'm happy that I didn't melt down. I prepared myself to do that. The horse is so professional, so I prepare myself to be at the same level as the horse.
This is the great opportunity of my life. I wasn't going to come here and melt down, that's for sure.
Q. Mario, some background on you. How old are you? Where in Mexico are you from? How did you happen to get into horse racing?
MARIO GUTIERREZ: I'm from Vera Cruz in Mexico. My dad was a quarterhorse rider in Mexico City. We only raced in the match races. He was training horses. I always wanted to be like my dad. I asked him to teach me how to learn.
Part of my growing up was learning how to ride horses.
Q. Dennis, you picked out this horse. You're Doug's main assistant. If I'm not mistaken, you've been through some health problems recently. Can you talk about what you've been through and what this means.
DENNIS O'NEILL: Well, that's a tough one. Yeah, I have been through a lot. Going through what I went through I guess makes me appreciate this a little more; makes you appreciate your family.
You can say whatever you want about Doug, but he's the nicest, most caring person I know in the world. I never would have made it through what I went through without him. It's great to go through something like this with him and celebrate with him.
THE MODERATOR: Doug, there's a friend of yours named Hope. She's here with the Make a Wish Foundation and has joined all of you in this adventure. I want you to talk about this experience. Hope, welcome to Churchill Downs. Doug, could you talk about meeting her and the experience.
DOUG O'NEILL: You know, Case Clay of Three Chimneys called and told me he met a friend in Hope, how she wanted to come to the barn area. She kind of liked Hansen in The Derby, so we had to get through that little thing (laughter).
But Mario, if he knew this, might have been a little nervous. We put Hope on Lava Man. She was an absolute natural on Lava Man. It was incredible.
Just so cool. Just so cool to see someone who is so excited about the horses, just so passionate about the game like we are. We got a new friend. Her parents are great. They're from St. Louis. They weren't sorry to see Pujols leave.
No, but it's been a great addition to our family. Hope, here we go. We're going to the Preakness, baby.
THE MODERATOR: Before this turns into a party, they have a party to go to, any more questions? One more question.
Q. You've mentioned the Preakness a couple times. Was it always the plan to go to Baltimore, Mr. Reddam, or was that going to be based on what you did today?
J. PAUL REDDAM: Well, you know, we certainly didn't know we would win the race today, but we were confident the horse was going to run well. We never really talked about what happens next.
Of course, subconsciously that was always the plan, certainly. We gave the horse only two preps this year. Part of the idea was we knew we had a good horse, and we wanted to make sure he was fresh because the Triple Crown is a gamble and it looks like it paid off. We've only run three times this year, so Preakness, here we come.
Q. Doug, are you planning to stay here at Churchill and then to Pimlico?
DOUG O'NEILL: We'll find one, and hopefully Mr. Reddam will buy it. I think that would be the game plan.
We'll stay at Churchill. He likes this track. Ben Huffman and Donny Richardson, they were so cool to give us a whole barn. I have to thank some other owners. We had a real presence in the barn area. Our barn was so quiet because we had nine of our own horses. It felt like home. That helped.
I think the game plan now, as long as he comes out of it good right now, is to stay at Churchill and head to Pimlico. Southern California, baby. We're going to Maryland.
THE MODERATOR: Seeing as there are no other questions, before a record crowd at the Kentucky Derby, 165,000 plus here today, I'll Have Another wins the Kentucky Derby, owned by J. Paul Reddam.
We have the brothers O'Neill, Doug and Dennis, and jockey Mario Gutierrez in his first Kentucky Derby ride. Congratulations, gentlemen. Good luck in Baltimore.
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