Comparisons abound between King Guillermo and owner Victor Martinez

Profile Picture: Rowan Ward

December 6th, 2020

Even when things don’t go as planned, greatness can still lie ahead. Victor Martinez’s baseball career exemplified that. Now he's hoping King Guillermo can follow in his footsteps.

Martinez had an excellent start to his career

Martinez played for the Cleveland Indians during the first 6 1/2 years of his career, making the All-Star Team three times. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox in July of 2009 and continued his excellent play there. He was an All-Star again in 2010.

Martinez then signed a four-year contract to play for the Detroit Tigers starting in 2011. During his first year in Michigan, he had one of the best seasons of his career.

Playing mainly as a designated hitter, Martinez hit .330 – his best single-season batting average up to that time – and batted in 103 runs. He helped carry the Tigers all the way to the American League Championship Series.

Trouble struck for Martinez in 2012

Then, things didn’t go according to plan. In January 2012, Martinez tore his anterior cruciate ligament. Fans hoped his ACL would heal in time for him to play that year, but his recovery was a lengthy one. He spent the entire 2012 season rehabilitating.

Martinez had a sensational second act

Martinez returned to the Tigers in 2013. That season started slowly, but from July through the end of the season, he caught fire. He ended the year with a .301 batting average, giving fans in Detroit hope that he might be able to return to his 2011 form.

In 2014, he fulfilled that hope. Martinez hit .335, the best single-season batting average of his career. His .409 on-base percentage was not only a career-best, but an American League-best. He also hit 32 home runs, another career high. He led the Tigers to a 90-72 record and an AL Central crown. Martinez made his fifth All-Star team, won the AL Silver Slugger Award for designated hitters, and finished second in the AL MVP voting behind only Mike Trout.

Martinez played four more seasons after that banner year, battling through injuries and even heart surgery before retiring in 2018.

Martinez not taking things easy in retirement

Now, Martinez does two things under the banner of Victoria’s Ranch, his cattle farm in Okeechobee, Florida. He has horses there, including ones he rides to herd his cattle.

But those are not the only horses in Martinez’s life. Victoria’s Ranch is also the name under which he owns Thoroughbred racehorses.

Aspirations were high from early on

Five horses have raced in the gold and black silks of Victoria’s Ranch – all trained by Juan Carlos Avila – including stable star King Guillermo. Hopes were high from the start – Martinez bought the son of Uncle Mo for $150,000 as a post-sale purchase at the 2019 OBS Spring Sale, from a pin-hooking partnership that included Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson. Martinez then named the colt King Guillermo, after his father, Guillermo Martinez.

King Guillermo's career feels similar to his owner's

Just like Victor Martinez’s own career at the highest level of his sport, not everything has gone perfectly for King Guillermo. He ran sixth as the betting favorite on debut in 2019, then gained his bearings on turf last autumn.

It was not until he returned on March 7 of this year that he broke out on the Kentucky Derby trail, winning the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) at 49-1 odds. He backed up that effort with an excellent second behind Nadal in the Arkansas Derby (G1) two months later. He trained up to the Kentucky Derby (G1) on Sept. 5, but spiked a temperature the week of the race and had to scratch.

Better days ahead?

King Guillermo returned on Saturday, Dec. 5 in the Cigar Mile (G1). Like his owner’s first few months of 2013 after missing the previous year, it wasn’t a career-best fresh off the bench.

Facing older horses for the first time, King Guillermo prompted the pace before beginning to flatten near the quarter-pole, ultimately finishing fourth behind True Timber.

However, if Martinez’s baseball career is any indication, sometimes it takes time to get back to the top of one’s game. King Guillermo’s best days may still be ahead of him.