In The Hunt: Gutierrez, Loveberry, and Graham Reflect on Riding Title Dreams




Contact: Kevin Kilroy
Notes Writer/Media Relations
[email protected]
PHOTO: Hodges Photography


If Rey Gutierrez can hold on to the lead, it would be his first jockey title

New Orleans, La (Wednesday, March 8, 2023) – Throughout the 2022 – 2023 meet at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, Rey Gutierrez, Jareth Loveberry, and James Graham have been at the top of jockey colony, battling for the riding title. Each is motivated by a different goals.

With 14 race cards left in the meet, Gutierrez leads all with 59 wins. Loveberry has won 46 races but is sidelined for at least another week with a hairline fracture in his fibula. The four-time Fair Grounds title-winner James Graham has 46, and though not impossible, he would need to rack up several multi-win days, which he has been known to do.

Gutierrez is so close to winning his first jockey title he can smell it. Six years into his riding career, he made a big splash in the racing world early on as an apprentice at Aqueduct, and was a finalist for an Eclipse Award as outstanding apprentice jockey. After moving his tack to the Kentucky and Fair Grounds circuit, he still needs something he can hang his hat on and a riding title could be just that.

Talking with the 27-year-old son of longtime Finger Lakes trainer Luis Gutierrez, there are two things that drive Rey on a daily basis: winning for every barn on the Fair Grounds backside and developing as a rider.

“Jose (Santos, agent) sent me the stall list before the meet started and he gave me a set of names we were trying to ride for, and I looked at that stall list quite a bit,” Gutierrez said. “I try to have that approach of winning for everybody. Jose told me before the meet that we have an opportunity to (to win the title), and that we were going to stay here more this year than last year.”

Both Gutierrez and Loveberry proved their mettle in 2021 – 2022, their first season riding at Fair Grounds. Gutierrez finished fifth by wins with 51 and Loveberry finished 9th with 36. With the closing of Arlington Park, Loveberry, supported by his longtime agent Steve “The Architect” Leving, has had to prove himself in the eyes of new trainers and owners. On the other hand, Gutierrez arrived at Fair Grounds with a key player in his corner, Bret Calhoun.

“Obviously my biggest supporter is Bret (Calhoun),” Gutierrez said. “He’s had a great year, and I feed off of Bret, and I’ve been lucky to ride the majority of Bret’s horses.”

Calhoun has led on the trainer side of things for the majority of the meet. As of Wednesday, March 8, the barn has 31 wins behind Brad Cox’s 32.

“(Gutierrez and Santos) came down here with that mentality (to try to win the title),” Calhoun said. “But we don’t talk much about it. I think jocks are more interested in it than trainers. Rey’s young, up-and-coming, aggressive, and I think that’s on his mind.”

Riding for Calhoun amounts for approximately half of Gutierrez’ wins, the rest prove the hustle has paid off, winning for a host of different trainers.

“I’ve won for Steve (Asmussen), Brendan Walsh, Ron (Faucheux)–there are a lot of other barns who have supported me and I’m grateful for it,” Gutierrez said. “Being here for my second year and meeting the locals more, like Courtney Dandridge, Joe Duhon, Shane Wilson–these are people who are giving me a chance this year that I didn’t get a chance to ride for last year.”

A lot of the horses Gutierrez brought home last year were overlooked by the bettors, but this meet is different. His mounts are live, and if not the favorite in the morning line, at post time it’s a different story.

“Part of my development this meet has been to carry those expectations that come with being the favorite in a lot of races,” Gutierrez said. “To manage that, and be better every day and hold myself accountable to get the job done.”

Gutierrez has been successful developing as a rider and diversifying the barns he rides for, and if he earns the title because of it, he knows there’s people in his corner who would be more excited than him.

“It would mean a lot to my family, and my dad especially,” Gutierrez said. “I think he would be extremely proud of it, especially when he goes to the simulcast room at Fingers Lakes. My dad has always wanted that but I don’t necessarily think about it every day.”

On the other hand, both Jareth Loveberry and James Graham are deep into their riding careers and have the titles to back up their talents. If Loveberry comes out on top, it would be his first title at Fair Grounds, but the seventh of his 19-year career, having won two each at Arlington Park, Hawthorne, and Mountaineer, and one at Canterbury Park.

“For me, it is one day, one race at a time,” Loveberry said. “Don’t get me wrong, (winning the title) would be awesome, but we’re not aiming for it. That’s not what motivates me every morning. It’s not what drives me. It would be cool to have my name in the history of Fair Grounds, like at Arlington, they can’t take that away from me.”

When Loveberry won his first title at Mountaineer in 2012, he had to beat out Deshawn Parker who had been the leading rider by wins across North America in 2010 and 2011. Parker sits 19th all-time with 6,103 wins, and is also in the middle of his second successful season based at Fair Grounds.

“My goal has always been just to win races,” Loveberry said. “I was the first rider to beat Deshawn (Parker) at Mountaineer in years. I wasn’t aiming for it. People told me I had a shot and I just wasn’t worried about it. My goal at that time was to get to 200 wins on the year. If I got to 200, then the rest would take care of itself.”

James Graham has four Fair Grounds’ riding titles to his name, but with 1323 career wins at the local track, he has something bigger in mind than a fifth title.

“My motivation is to be the all-time leading rider,” Graham said. “I know I’m not very far back from Ronald Ardoin and Robby Albarado. Before I retire I’d like to be the all-time leading rider. It wasn’t the plan when I set out, but when it came to my attention a couple years ago, it became my goal to not only get there but for my record to never be equaled again.”

For now, it is Gutierrez leading the pack at the top of the homestretch, anyone else would have to pull off a Zenyatta-like closing effort to catch him.



About Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots

Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, one of the nation’s oldest racetracks, has been in operation since 1872. Located in New Orleans, LA, Fair Grounds, which is owned by Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ Global Select Market: CHDN), also operates a slot-machine gaming facility and 15 off-track betting parlors throughout Southeast Louisiana. The 151st Thoroughbred Racing Season – highlighted by the 110th running of the Louisiana Derby – will run from Nov 18, 2022 through March 26, 2023. More information is available online at