Jockey Reylu Gutierrez stopped at Churchill Downs opening weekend, his 15th track so far this year, and made his first career Churchill Downs win even more special with the Grade III Pocahontas. His accomplishment earned Jockey of the Week honors for September 13 through September 19. The award, which is voted on by a panel of racing experts, is for jockeys who are members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 1050 active, retired and permanently disabled jockeys in the United States.
Trained by Bret Calhoun and with Gutierrez again in the saddle, Hidden Connection went into the Grade III Pocahontas for two-year-old fillies fresh off a dazzling 7-1/2 length win at Colonial Downs. Off as the 9-5 favorite from post 9 in a field of 11, Hidden Connection sat just off the leader, Lemieux ridden by Tyler Gaffalione. With three furlongs to go, Hidden Connection went to the lead and drew away to a dominating 9-1/2 length win while setting a stakes record for the 1-1/16th mile race over a fast track in a final time of 1:43.78.
“It is incredibly special to get my first win at Churchill Downs for these great people, in front of this amazing crowd and aboard this filly,” said the understandably excited Gutierrez. “She is unbelievable.”
Gutierrez, 25, a finalist for the 2018 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice, earned his first graded stakes win in 2019. He is the son of Finger Lakes trainer Luis Gutierrez and his uncle is retired Finger Lakes jockey Jose Gutierrez. Even with those close racing connections, Gutierrez did not intend to be a jockey. An injury playing Lacrosse in high school led him to rehabilitation and the idea of physical therapy as a profession. He graduated from SUNY Cortland in 2017 with a degree in exercise physiology.
A desire to pay off student loans and growing up in the racing industry led him to give riding professionally a try. He won his first race in 2017 at Finger Lakes and is considered one of the industry’s most promising young jockeys. To date, the well-travelled Gutierrez has won 356 races from 2,808 starts and nearly $13 million in purses. He rode mostly in New York through 2020 but decided to give Texas a try this year riding at Sam Houston and Lone Star Park as well as Remington Park in Oklahoma. This week, he rides at Churchill Downs then Remington Park, and back home to Finger Lakes for mounts in two-year-old stakes races for trainer Mike Maker.
Weekly stats for Gutierrez were 8-1-1-1 and purse earnings of $202,624.
Gutierrez out-polled Javier Castellano who won the Grade III Iroquois, Tyler Gaffalione with a stakes wins at Churchill Downs, Feargal Lynch with two stakes wins at Laurel and Jaime Rodriguez who had nine wins for the week.