The most recognized jockey in all of horseracing right now is Victor Espinoza. A journeyman jockey with plenty of experience under his belt, Espinoza achieved a historic and legendary feat in 2015 when he became the latest jockey to win racing’s Triple Crown as he helped American Pharoah become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.
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Espinoza had a long and difficult road to the top of the racing world. He was born on a dairy farm in Hidalgo, Mexico. Victor was the 11th of 12 children and learned to ride horses as a teenager on the farm. By the time he turned 17 Victor had decided that he wanted to become a professional jockey and worked as a bus driver in Mexico City to earn money for jockey school. Soon after, Espinoza was competing professionally on the tracks in Mexico.
1990 was a pivotal year for Victor Espinoza as he decided to come to the United States and try to forge a career competing against some of the best jockeys in the world. He began his American career on the smaller tracks of the California circuit, competing at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields where he won titles as the leading apprentice jockey. Trainers paid special attention to Espinoza’s work ethic. It took some time but people began to take note of his skill and ability on a horse.
After ten years fighting through the lower levels of American horseracing, Victor Espinoza made racing headlines in 2000 by winning the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Spain. A year later he was given his first opportunity to ride in the Kentucky Derby and finished a respectable third on Congaree. Just one year after that in 2002, Victor won the Run for the Roses and the Preakness Stakes on War Emblem, solidifying a relationship with trainer Bob Baffert that would culminate in the greatest prize in all of horseracing—The Triple Crown.
Espinoza made a run at the Triple Crown in 2014 aboard the highly touted California Chrome. California Chrome won the first two legs of the series before being defeated in the Belmont Stakes. It is very rare for a jockey to ride two potential Triple Crown winners in their career, but the next year Espinoza was given the mount on the Baffert-trained American Pharoah. The rest, as they say, is history.
American Pharoah cruised to victory in each of the Triple Crown races and went on the capture the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park with Espinoza in the irons. The two of them will make an effort to complete the first ever Grand Slam of horseracing when American Pharoah attempts to win the Breeders’ Cup classic in the fall of 2015 at Keeneland.
To date Espinoza has won more than 3,200 races. An avid supporter of charities, Espinoza routinely donates 10% of his winnings to his favorite causes. He gave his entire earnings from his Belmont Stakes win on American Pharoah to charity.
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