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KENTUCKY DERBY WINNING JOCKEY VICTOR ESPINOZA ‘BACK HOME’ AT SANTA ANITA; PREAKNESS NEXT FOR CAL-BRED SENSATION CALIFORNIA CHROME
ARCADIA, Calif. (May 6, 2014)—Three days removed from victory aboard favored California Chrome in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, winning jockey Victor Espinoza was at Santa Anita’s Clockers’ Corner Tuesday morning, feeling “relieved” in the aftermath of his second career win in the Run for the Roses. Espinoza, who continues to field a multitude of interview requests, sat down for a question and answer session at Santa Anita’s popular coffee and breakfast destination located at the top of the stretch:
Q.) Now that the dust has settled, how does it feel to be back at Santa Anita?
“I feel a tremendous sense of relief. It’s great to get back home with a victory because there was so much pressure on me. It’s just great to be back at Clockers’ Corner, to come back and see all my friends and to get back into my regular routine. That’s what you have to do, because the business goes on every day.”
Q.) There had been a lot of concern about California Chrome’s behavior in the starting gate. You drew post five, so you were in there a pretty long time. How was he as the other horses were loading in?
“Well, at one point, he leaned to the outside and then to the inside. But when they said ‘One more to load!’ he stood straight, and I’m thinking, ‘Kick it!’ He’s not that big, but he’s so quick. We broke good and he put us in a good position.”
Q.) How would you compare his performance on Saturday with his win here in the Santa Anita Derby on April 5?
“He had to run harder. The Kentucky Derby is such a tough race. You’ve got tough horses, tough trainers and tough jockeys and a lot of them. We got it done and hopefully he’ll recover from all the energy he put out in the Derby.”
Q.) Whenever you’re the favorite, there’s more pressure. Did you have a basic plan going into the race?
“I had no idea how I was gonna ride him. You think of so many things that can go wrong and you have all these plans and when the gates open, you can forget about it. It was tough on me.”
Q.) What did you do to celebrate on Saturday night and did you think about staying there another day, just to enjoy the whole thing?
“I got out of the track so late, it was probably around 10 o’clock. I had a lotta friends there from Florida and New York and we went out to an Italian restaurant. We didn’t eat until about midnight and I got back to my hotel at 2 a.m. I admit it, I thought about staying another day, but I had two mounts here on Sunday and I figured ‘I’m up now. I’ll just keep going.’”
Q.) Were you able to sleep on the flight home?
“No. I left the hotel at 3 a.m. and my flight was on Delta at 6 a.m., with a stop in Atlanta. I was hoping to just sleep on the plane, but everybody recognized me, so I just talked to people the whole way. When I got here to Santa Anita on Sunday, I was just running on adrenaline. I rested the whole day Monday, and now I’m back in my routine.”
Q.) You won your first Kentucky Derby with War Emblem in 2002. How does this one compare to that?
“With War Emblem, it all happened so fast. I picked the horse up pretty late. I’m enjoying it more this time because we had a month between the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby. We knew we’d be the favorite and even though there was a lot of pressure, it’s been fantastic.”
Q.) Have you ever won five races in-a-row on any other horse?
“Yes, with Officer.” (California-bred colt by Bertrando, who won his first five races with Espinoza up beginning July 6, 2001 to Oct. 6, 2001).
Q.) Do you think winning the Kentucky Derby will help your business?
“Any time you win, it helps. You have to keep working though, and you have to go with your routine.”
Q.) California Chrome has been committed to run in the Preakness on May 17. It looks like he stands out against those he ran against in the Derby, but did you happen to see Steve Asmussen’s filly, Untappable, run in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday?
“Yes I did. She’s an unbelievable filly. She’s so good, it looks like the other horses aren’t even running. She’s something special.”
And so was Espinoza’s triumph in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. A Mexico City native, Espinoza, 41, has two scheduled mounts on both Thursday and Friday at Santa Anita.