Catching My Eye: Brian Hernandez Jr. and Reylu Gutierrez at Keeneland

April 25th, 2023

Two jockeys had big days at Keeneland on Saturday. Brian Hernandez Jr. won three races including piloting home 13-1 Aunt Becca, and Rey Gutierrez bagged two, most impressively aboard 12-1 Front Run the Fed. Each gave difference-making rides on their mounts. Let’s take a look at the two biggest performances that caught my eye by Hernandez and Gutierrez. 

Brian Hernandez Jr.

Hernandez had horse in the 1 3/16-mile Ben Ali (G3) on Saturday, but facing a stout field of some of the top older route males, Rattle N Roll received a difference-making ride. Letting the field of six go ahead of him out of the gates before settling along the rail, coming out of the first turn it was clear who in the field had his game face on: Rattle N Roll.

The four-year-old trained by Kenny McPeek had his ears pricked back and began cruising, picking off all but the front two runners, one at a time, while skimming along the rail. But as the second turn neared his lane was shut off, and although Rattle N Roll relaxed nicely into a stalking trip, it soon became a dubious position as Skippylongstalking came along on his outside forming a pocket around Rattle N Roll that threatened to never open back up. 

It all came down to the second turn; if Hernandez could get Rattle N Roll in position between any of the three horses who stood in his way, he would have a shot. The leaders stayed along the rail, glued to each other moving well, so Hernandez tipped out and charged up, beating Skippylongstalking to the spot just outside Trademark. From there, Rattle N Roll opened up to win by 1 1/4 lengths over the hard-charging Call Me Fast and the game-but-fading front runner Pioneer of Medina.

Ten points off his high, which he received in the Oklahoma Derby (G3), Rattle N Roll earned a 99 Brisnet Speed figure.

Reflecting on this field, for me Pioneer of Medina and Tawny Port are tosses at any distance over 1 1/8 miles. Happy American seems to simply need a break to recoup his late kick and take on this division at longer distances where he can fully open up into his late-winning move. Rattle N Roll is a major contender at the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles. But really, can any of these beat the New Orleans Classic (G2) winner West Will Power?

Though Aunt Becca was 13-1 in the allowance for sophomore fillies on Saturday, this Cherie DeVaux trainee making her third start was simply the best horse. Hernandez hustled her to the front along the rail and proved yet again why he is such a strong rider with the lead. The three-year-old filly won by over six lengths and earned a 99 Brisnet Speed figure - a huge effort to say the least.

Hernandez also gave a perfect ride to 6-1 Lovely Princess in the fifth, a turf route for older fillies. Stalking in third, Hernandez tipped out at the top of the stretch and powered home, holding off the late run of the favorite Mise En Scene. 

From 52 mounts, Hernandez ranks fifth by wins with nine on the meet, winning at an impressive 17% rate.

Rey Gutierrez

The conditional allowance turf sprint finale on Saturday went to Front Run the Fed. This seven-year-old horse tends to run his biggest races fresh off a layoff, and from the looks of his form pattern coming into this race, he was sitting on a big effort. 

Gutierrez grabbed the irons, already with one win on the day, and after taking a slight bump breaking in the middle of the 12 runners, he settled Front Run the Fed to the back and saved ground. Waiting for racing room when turning for home, the Caio Caramori trainee was still near the back and would need to run down Just Might who seemed to be in the clear after breaking sharply and dashing out to lead the pack. 

Gutierrez gave a Joel Rosario-like ride on Front Run the Fed, somehow closing from deep in a turf sprint weaving through traffic like a heat-seeking missile. Gutierrez shifted Front Run the Fed to the four path in the upper stretch; still around eight lengths back, he began to rally between horses before having to tip inside for running room. Miraculously he surged between the leaders in the final sixteenth to win by one length. This was a big-time ride by Gutierrez on an ultra-game horse who earned a 93 Brisnet Speed figure.

Earlier in the card, Gutierrez took the 2-1 second favorite Deck of Cards to the front and hugged the rail in the route, saving enough to turn back a challenge from the favorite in the deep stretch.

Gutierrez’s fifth win of the meet puts him eighth in the jockey standings. He has won 15% of his 34 mounts.