Trainer Fausto Gutierrez, 54, discovered racing as small child in Spain, became a fan while growing up in Mexico, and moved toward a training career while in college. He spent about a decade working as a turf writer at a Mexico City newspaper before turning to training on full-time basis.
Safe to say, Gutierrez’s career switch has paid massive dividends. The veteran horseman has developed the Kentucky-bred Letruska for St. George Stable LLC, owned by the Mexican billionaire German Larrea Mota-Velasco, and has a chance to earn his first career Breeders’ Cup victory on Nov. 6 when the daughter of Super Saver headlines the $2 million Longines Distaff (G1).
The 8-5 favorite on the morning line for the 1 1/8-miles Distaff, Letruska has won six of seven starts in 2021, four of them Grade 1 races, and is the leading contender to win the Eclipse Award as the older female dirt horse.
Gutierrez majored in communications in college and thought it would lead to a job in television or advertising. As a college freshman, one of his professors noticed that he had a sales catalogue with him. The professor, who had a horse in the sale, invited him to visit the backstretch with him and introduced him to a trainer. That meeting led to the start of his training career and a few years later into journalism.
“I had a good friend who liked (soccer) and he started to work for the Periodico 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 balanced the unusual combination of training and journalism for several years and often had to write about his own horses. He spent 1998 and 1999 training horses in Texas for Mexican owners while the track in Mexico City was closed. Gutierrez’s association with Larrea Mota-Velasco began in 2001 when the CEO of Mexico’s largest mining company asked him to represent him at the Keeneland sales following the 9/11 attacks.
The owner-trainer partnership grew into a massive, powerful stable and Gutierrez was the leading trainer at the country’s only track for 10 consecutive years. He twice won Mexico’s Triple Crown.
Gutierrez found international success and U.S. exposure when the Clasico del Caribe series was relocated to Gulfstream Park in 2017. His victories included Jaguaryu (MEX) in the 2017 Lady Caribbean; Jala Jala (MEX) in the 2017 Caribbean Classic and 2018 Confraternity Caribbean Cup; Kukulkan (MEX) 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 that he wanted a division in the U.S. and Gutierrez brought Letruska and some other runners to Florida early in 2020. Letruska is the leader of his current 15-horse stable and his first Breeders’ Cup runner. He hopes to stay in the U.S. and building a bigger, but not too large, stable.
“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.”