Victor Espinoza, the veteran rider who stirred racing history and glory when he guided the exceptional colt American Pharoah through his Triple Crown triumph this spring, has been named the 2015 recipient of the Laffit Pincay, Jr. Award.
Espinoza will receive the award and its distinctive trophy from Pincay on Sunday in a winner’s circle ceremony following the third race.
The Pincay Award, given annually by the Hall of Fame rider since 2004 to those who have served the sport “with integrity, extraordinary dedication, determination and distinction,” originated at the now-closed Hollywood Park, but shifted to Del Mar in 2014.
Espinoza, 43 and a native of Mexico City, has ridden more than 3,200 winners in his sparkling career, but may always be remembered for his trio of scores in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes on the smooth-striding American Pharoah, making him only the 12th American Triple Crown winner and the first to accomplish it in 37 years. The rider first handled American Pharoah in a winning effort in last year’s Del Mar Futurity and in seven starts since then they’ve never been beaten.
Espinoza’s Triple Crown feat this year came on the heels of winning two of the three Triple Crown legs in 2014 with California Chrome for trainer Art Sherman, winner of last year’s Pincay Award. Additionally, the rider had won two legs of the Triple Crown in 2002 with the speedy War Emblem, meaning he is the only jockey to have had three chances to capture the Triple Crown.
“Anytime I win an award of any kind I am honored and humbled,” Espinoza said. “And an award like this is very special. I rode against Laffit for many seasons and he was not my friend on the racetrack; he was a tough customer out there. But we are friends now and for him to select me for this award is a true honor.”
Pincay, who rode for 39 years and won a then world’s record 9,530 races, earned five Eclipse Awards as America’s top rider and led the nation in earnings on seven occasions. The now 68-year-old competed for 27 summers at Del Mar and is the track’s winningest rider with 1,011 victories prior to his retirement in 2003.