Guce’s Derby dream alive | Inquirer Sports

Guce’s Derby dream alive

SACRAMENTO, California—Filipino Jockey Ramon Guce will likely burn the wires with me this Saturday (Sunday in Manila) after the fabled Kentucky Derby goes off under the twin spires of Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

On a weekend when Bayang Karerista everywhere definitely pays attention to the Sport of Kings, Guce, of the Philippines’ famed family of jockeys, will again remind me of the dream that flashes in his mind each time he steers his mount to a win at Los Alamitos Race Course near Los Angeles.

Even today, at 49 years old, he hasn’t changed his narrative. He still desires to get aboard a three-year old thoroughbred in a future edition of the Derby, the most exciting two minutes in sports.

Guce is the winningest thoroughbred rider of all time at Los Al, the smallest of the LA area’s horse race courses behind Hollywood and Santa Anita, where he gets to ride on occasion.


He has scored 1,048 victories at his racecourse of choice since his arrival from Manila with his family in 1999. Guce is living proof that Filipino athletes can excel in sports where a tree-top reach and hefty body are not required.

“Every jockey in America and the world longs to ride in the Derby,” he has told me over and over again. “I will nurture that ambition as long as I am able to ride.”

With a lot of experience, Guce prays that he gets a chance to answer the riders’ call at the Derby like his idol, the legendary Bill Shoemaker.

Shoemaker, aboard Ferdinand, was the oldest jockey, at 54, to win the Derby in 1986. Bobby Baird was the oldest ever to saddle up for the world’s foremost horse race at 58 in 1978.


As I write this, 20 three-year-olds, barring late scratches, will run in the 143rd running of the Derby.

With a 60 percent chance of rain forecast at race time, analysts are not partial to the current 4-1 co-favorites Classic Empire and Always Dreaming, who have never raced in the slop.


Expectations are high for mud runners like long shots Gunnevera and Gormley to give the field a run for the money and blanket of roses at the winning circle.

Only 12 horses, including American Pharoah—the bay colt with the misspelled name—have won American horse racing’s elusive Triple Crown that starts with the Derby.

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Pharoah won the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont two years ago to complete a Crown sweep since Affirmed in 1978.

TAGS: Kentucky Derby

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