Racing Spotlight: Ny Traffic, Stewart Elliott, Fausto Gutierrez
Racing Spotlight is a weekly series that highlights a horse, jockey, and trainer with insightful information to help our players be informed.
This week, we look at Ny Traffic, who is poised for a 2021 comeback; Stewart Elliot, who leads the standings at Lone Star Park; and Fausto Gutierrez, who is gaining some of the acclaim he earned in Mexico here in the United States.
Horse spotlight: Ny Traffic
Ny Traffic speeds up his 2021 comeback Saturday in the Salvator Mile (G3) at Monmouth Park. The gray colt returns to stakes company after dominating his four-year-old debut, a May 2 allowance race at Belmont Park, by 6 3/4 lengths.
“He came back in a big way. He won emphatically,” trainer Saffie Joseph said. “We were hoping he would win, but we never envisioned he would run like that in his first race back after seven months off.”
Last year, second-place finishes in the Louisiana Derby (G2), Matt Winn (G2), and Haskell (G1) landed Ny Traffic on the rearranged Triple Crown trail. In the Haskell, he stalked Authentic throughout the race and almost caught him in a late surge, but came up short by a nose.
The two horses renewed their rivalry in the Kentucky Derby (G1), which occurred Sept. 5 because of the global pandemic. In this test, Authentic emerged wearing the blanket of roses and Ny Traffic finished eighth. Both horses next entered the Preakness (G1), which was the final leg of the Triple Crown. Swiss Skydiver bested the boys in her first-place effort, Authentic was a neck behind, and Ny Traffic finished ninth.
Returning to the scene of his impressive Haskell performance, Ny Traffic faces a field of 12 in the Salvator Mile with Paco Lopez in the irons. Pirate’s Punch, who won the race in 2020 and makes his first start since the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1), could be his top competition.
“It’s a long year and he has a lot in front of him. We’re hoping this race can be a building block for the year,” Joseph said.
Ny Traffic, a son of 2013 Whitney H. (G1) winner Cross Traffic, has a 3-3-2 line from 12 career starts.
Jockey spotlight: Stewart Elliott
With a month to go in Lone Star Park’s 48-day season, Stewart Elliott leads the jockey standings in both purse earnings and wins. His 41 victories are over a dozen more than a trio of riders in a tie for second, and the 56-year-old has won at a 22% clip and finished in the trifecta with 54% of his entries. He rides first call for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen at Lone Star, Sam Houston, and Remington Park.
"Stewart brings professionalism and consistency in every race he rides," Asmussen said.
Elliott started the year by winning his first Sam Houston leading riding title, and in 2020, he competed at Lone Star for the first time. During that meet, he notched his 5,000th career win, a milestone that only 35 other jockeys have reached. He finished the season with the most in purse earnings, but Ramon Vazquez’s 58 wins bested him by five. The third-place finisher had 20 fewer wins.
The Toronto native’s father was a jockey, and the family lived with him while he competed in Hong Kong for six years. Elliott began his career in 1981 and became a fixture in Pennsylvania racing. He is the leading rider in Philadelphia Park (now Parx Racing's) history and is best known for piloting Smarty Jones to wins in the 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness before their heartbreaking second in the Belmont S. (G1).
Elliott was inducted into Canada’s Racing Hall of Fame in 2015. In 2017, he was selected by a vote of jockeys nationwide to receive the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award which recognizes riders for their careers and personal character.
Trainer spotlight: Fausto Gutierrez
The name Fausto Gutierrez has emerged in America alongside the five-year-old mare Letruska, who won her second consecutive Grade 1 Saturday in the Ogden Phipps at Belmont Park.
Gutierrez has been training for San Jorge Stable in his native Mexico since 1986. He won 10 consecutive trainer titles at Las Americas Racetrack in Mexico City, and has been among the biggest winners in the Clasico Del Caribe series, which has been run at Gulfstream since 2017 and is restricted to horses from Latin American and Caribbean countries.
"The Caribbean Derby races are my gateway to bringing Mexican horses to run in the U.S.,” Gutierrez said. “My horses and I had achieved great things in Mexico and several of them won the biggest races in the Caribbean Derby. But in the U.S., nobody knows our past success and we have to start over."
In 2019, San Jorge expanded into the United States, and Gutierrez established a base in south Florida. He regularly competes at Gulfstream and has entered races at many other tracks. Letruska elevated the stable in 2021, beginning with a win in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3), and she followed this by finishing second in Oaklawn’s Azeri S. (G2) by a head to 2020 Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Shedaresthedevil. She next defeated two-time champion Monomoy Girl and Swiss Skydiver in the Apple Blossom H. (G1) to give Gutierrez his first Grade 1 win. Letruska is pointing towards the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
"He is a champion in Mexico, but it is hard to come from a foreign country,” Irad Ortiz Jr., who rode Letruska to victory in the Apple Blossom, said. “You have to work so hard to make inroads in the U.S. where nobody knows you. It is so big that he won a Grade 1, and even bigger against Monomoy Girl."
Gutierrez won the 2015 Triple Crown in his home country with Huitlacoche, and he repeated the feat in 2018 with Kukulkan.