From Turf Writer to Trainer: Gutierrez Writes His Own Story

Fausto Gutierrez | Mike Kane

By

DEL MAR, CA–It's fair to say that former turf writer Fausto Gutierrez does not fit the mold of a typical trainer at the Breeders' Cup World Championships.

While the background in media sets the outgoing 54-year-old Gutierrez apart, he is a veteran horseman with loads of experience and massive success in Mexico. His first starter in the Breeders' Cup is Letruska (Super Saver), the 5-year-old mare who is the 8-5 favorite on the morning line in the $2-million Distaff. Gutierrez has developed the Kentucky-bred for St George Stable LLC, owned by the Mexican billionaire Germán Larrea Mota-Velasco. She has won six of seven starts in 2021, four of them Grade Is, and is the leading contender to win the Eclipse Award as the older female dirt horse.

Gutierrez, the son of a now-retired lawyer, grew up in a family that was not connected to Thoroughbred racing.

“One of my first memories I have about horses was from the Hipódromo de la Zarzuela in Madrid, Spain,” he said. “We lived near there and when I was very, very young, sometimes we would go there.”

During his youth in Mexico City, Gutierrez said he became a fan of the sport at Hipódromo de Las Américas, the one track open in the country.

“I entered with the general public because I liked to see the horses go to the paddock, [handicap] the races, read in newspapers what's happening, who is winning, the selections,” he said. “This is one sport that can get your attention. It isn't important if your family is there. When you have the first contact with the horses, you want to smell all of what is around. And you recognize immediately, too, that the horses are athletes and this is another sport that is different from other ones, because there are human and equine athletes.”

Gutierrez went to college, majoring in communications, figuring that it would lead to a job in television or advertising. It delivered him to racing.

“I had a good friend who liked [soccer] and he started to work for the Periódico Reforma. It is one of the most important in Mexico,” he said. “When the newspaper started, he called me. We are very good friends from the university, we finished together, and he told me, 'I'm looking for a person to write about the horses.' A special [contributor], or something like that. I thought, 'Why not?'”

Gutierrez with Letruska this summer | Sarah Andrew

As he told the story a few feet from Letruska's stall at Del Mar, Gutierrez laughed about how an unplanned set of circumstances put him on what became his life's professional journey.

“This is the reason I started there,” he said. “At that point of my career, it determined things because if I don't find that job, for sure I had to go another way, maybe something in advertising. At that moment, I had a trainer's license and an owner with one or two horses. At the same time I was writing for the newspaper. This put me 100% into the Mexican racetrack and I had a chance to make a living.”

Gutierrez said he found his way into training in a most unusual way

“The first day I went to the university, my first class, I went with a book for a Mexican sale,” he said. “I put it under my seat and the professor said, 'What is this?' That professor was a partner in a horse that was at sale at that auction. After that he told me, 'Let's go on Saturday to the barn area.' I went with him and he introduced me to a trainer and we became friends. We claimed a horse together and I started to train him. It was a coincidence of life.”

Gutierrez said he believes the first winner he trained was in 1988 when he was 21 years old. About five years later, he was offered the turf writing job.

“When I started to work at the newspaper, I understood the real power of the media,” he said. “Whatever you write has more importance. This was the most important newspaper in Mexico. This helped me to know a lot of the owners and we became friends.”

In the early 1990s, Gutierrez was handling what turned into a career-influencing Kentucky-bred filly named Mactuta (Bates Motel) out of a Little Current mare, who he said won a dozen stakes and Mexican championships in 1993 and 1994.

When his newspaper career, which he said lasted for about 10 years, beckoned, Gutierrez found himself in the unusual situation of writing about some of his own horses. The connections he made with owners led to a foray into Texas racing.

“In 1996, the track was closed abruptly by the government because of the political situation,” he said. “It was supposed to close for one weekend, but it closed for three years. After eight months, we made a group of 24 horses from different owners and we sent them to Texas. We ran at Sam Houston, Lone Star and Retama and after the year of 1999, the track was ready to open again and I moved back to Mexico.”

Equibase stats show him with 20 victories from 182 starts in 1998 and 1999.

Quite by accident, in 2001, two years after returning to Mexico, Gutierrez developed a relationship with Larrea Mota-Velasco, the CEO of Mexico's largest mining corporation and a former horse owner.

“After 9/11, he was planning to come to Keeneland to buy some yearlings to go back into racing,” Gutierrez said. “He didn't fly because the airports were closed. He contacted me and asked me if I wanted to come. I took one of the first flights after they opened operations. After that, we have been together all this time.”

Letruska training at Del Mar | Breeders' Cup/Eclipse Sportswire

Larrea Mota-Velasco reinvested in bloodstock in a big way and Gutierrez handled his growing and increasingly powerful stable. It was so dominant, Gutierrez said, that he might saddle 11 of the 12 horses in a stakes race. He won 10 consecutive training titles at the Mexico City track from 2010-19 and twice won the Triple Crown.

Gutierrez found international success and U.S. exposure when the Clásico del Caribe series was relocated to Gulfstream Park in 2017. His victories included Jaguaryu (Mex) (Point Determined) in the 2017 Lady Caribbean; Jala Jala (Mex) (Point Determined) in the 2017 Caribbean Classic and 2018 Confraternity Caribbean Cup; Kukulkan (Mex) (Point Determined) in the 2018 Caribbean Classic and 2019 Copa Confraternidad del Caribe; and Letruska in the 2019 Copa Invitacional del Caribe, facing older males as a 3-year-old filly.

Larrea Mota-Velasco decided to open a U.S. division and Gutierrez and his family relocated to Florida.

“I moved here in March 2020 and really then I wasn't sure if I wanted to stay in the United States or not,” he said. “I was really planning to go back to Mexico. But after the pandemic, I'm staying here. A trip I had planned for 10 days I have extended until now.”

Letruska has carried Gutierrez's American stable, which has won 16 races with eight different horses this year. He said he has 15 horses based at Keeneland, likes the feel of a less-is-more business and hopes to grow a bit.

“Any trainer to continue to be competitive needs to have material, to have horses,” he said. “I want to have an operation that I can control very closely. Maybe I can have 30 to 40 horses that I can pay attention to. In Mexico before, I trained nearly 200 horses at the same time. It's different. At this point, I prefer to be closer to the horses and make more decisions.”

 

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