Santa Anita Stable Notes By Ed Golden
The fairytale saga that is Victor Espinoza’s moves ever forward, chapter by chapter.
His riding career in serious jeopardy following a training accident at Del Mar last July,
the 47-year-old Triple Crown winner and Hall of Fame member remains his ever-affable self after a recovery just short of miraculous, back riding winners like nothing ever happened.
But it did.
“I’m doing well right now and things are moving along quite nicely,” said Espinoza,
whose 13 victories from 49 mounts–a lofty 27 percent–place him firmly among the top 10 riders at the spring portion of Santa Anita’s current meet.
“I’m trying to win as many races as I can and looking forward to my next champion. I hope by riding every day I can reach that goal.”
Should he achieve it, Espinoza would add to a resume that includes a Triple Crown sweep with Horse of the Year American Pharoah in 2015 and a near-sweep with two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome, who finished in a dead-heat for fourth in the 2014 Belmont Stakes after winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
Following his arduous recovery, Espinoza had to prove himself riding-worthy all over again to fans and horsemen alike.
“That was understandable after such a serious accident,” Espinoza said. “Everyone was waiting to see how I would do, but now things have returned to normal. Owners and trainers have confidence in me and are working with me like they did before.
“I’m riding as many races as possible, trying to win every one.”
On Saturday, Espinoza returns to the scene of his greatest triumph, Belmont Park, where he captured the Triple Crown on American Pharoah. He rides promising maiden winner Ce Ce (pronounced see see) for trainer Michael McCarthy in the Grade I, $700,000 Acorn Stakes at a one-turn mile.
“Victor worked her the other morning, a nice, solid move in a minute and three-fifths,” said McCarthy, who conditions the daughter of Quality Road for owner/breeder Bo Hirsch.
“To see where Victor is today from 10 months ago is inspiring. What happened then was frightening, and for him to dig down and make a major commitment to getting fit not only physically but mentally, and coming back, was extremely courageous.”