ELMONT, N.Y. (WROC) — Farmington native ReyLú Gutierrez said that he could feel it in the air. This was no typical day at the race track.
“It was the Belmont Stakes day. Everybody knew,” says Gutierrez. “There was just a certain amount of energy,”
The Victor native competed in his first Triple Crown race on Saturday, riding aboard Jungle Runner.
“It was a very special day that I’m used to being on the other side of,” says Gutierrez. “To be on that side, it was pretty neat.”
Gutierrez tried to stay as focused as possible throughout the day. But he did give himself a few moments to take in the experience, especially as the Belmont’s anthem bellowed through the race track.
“When we were going through the paddock and Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” started playing, I kinda teared up because it’s the moment you see on TV all those years,” says Gutierrez. “To actually be in that moment and to be from New York. To me, that was the biggest race I ever wanted to be in. That was the race I dreamed about being in. Obviously, there’s the Kentucky Derby, but I’m a New York boy, and being in the Belmont Stakes, that was everything to me.”
As he was appreciating where he was, he was thinking about everyone back home who believed in him and got him into the sport. That includes his father, who is a trainer, and his uncle, a fellow jockey.
“I just thought about everyone back home at Finger Lakes. Sometimes, people, they’ll always tell you, they’ll hype you up when you’re younger- ‘You’re going to make it there, you’re going to do this, do that.’ But it’s just hearsay sometimes, just to get a positive vibe going. But to actually be there, I was just thinking a lot about them,” says Gutierrez. “Just everybody back home in Rochester. Everybody was believing in me but I didn’t believe in myself, so I was thinking a lot about them.”
Jungle Runner opened as a 50-1 longshot and ended up finishing in last place despite a strong start.
“The race didn’t go the way I wanted, but I was still on a good horse. He’s still a very competitive horse. It’s just that those horses are the best of the best for their age group,” says Gutierrez.
“Around the turn, turning for home, you know it just flattened out on me,” he adds. “That happens sometimes, you’ve got to take what you get. I tried to battle with him, he was battling, I tried to give him everything I had as well.”
Gutierrez says that he thought he was years away from competing in a Triple Crown race.
“I was the youngest guy in the Belmont, I have only been riding really for two-and-a-half years, one year as a professional,” says Gutierrez. “To even be in that position was an honor. A lot of doors have just opened up for me that I never thought would open up for me.”
Gutierrez is looking forward to the future and hopes to capitalize on his recent good fortune.
“I know that people notice me a little bit. It’s up to me now to get the results now with the bit of publicity that I have,” says Gutierrez. “If I can show some results to carry on with the little momentum that I have, I think I can create a better future for myself. As with all things in life, once you have the opportunity it’s up to you to take it and go with it.”
Maybe sometime soon, competing in the Triple Crown will be a routine for the young jockey and actually be just another day at the race track.