VICTOR ESPINOZA BACK IN THE SADDLE AT SANTA ANITA AS HE FINISHES SECOND WITH HIS FIRST MOUNT SINCE BEING INJURED JULY 22
ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 18, 2019)–A storybook ending it wasn’t, but the racing world welcomed Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza with open arms following a seven-month absence on a picturesque Monday afternoon at Santa Anita, as the 46-year-old native of Mexico City finished second, beaten 2 ¾ lengths aboard heavily favored Gallantlystreaming in the day’s first race which was run at 6 ½ furlongs down the Camino Real Turf Course.
“It was great, it was a fun ride,” said Espinoza. “She ran great and you can’t ask for much more. We got the first race out of the way and now we’ve got to go on and find the next champion. I wasn’t nervous, I was kind of excited (going to the starting gate), excited to know I came back and could continue my career.”
With fans hollering words of encouragement from Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens, through the tunnel underneath the Grandstand and on to the post parade, Espinoza expressed sincere appreciation to all those who have assisted him in his long road back from a broken neck, sustained in a training accident at Del Mar on July 22.
“…It’s very important to have support from the fans and the people around you,” said Espinoza, who had limited use of his left arm and required 24-hour assistance for a period of time following his injury. “I appreciate that, I appreciate everything. Basically, I appreciate everything in life. I go day by day and continue my career surrounded by a lot of happy people.”
It seemed fitting that owner, Hronis Racing, LLC and trainer, John Sadler would be the first to offer Espinoza a mount, as Victor had been the regular rider of their eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic and Older Horse of Year winner Accelerate, prior to the July 22 injury.
Irish-bred Gallantlystreaming, who took a steep dive in class from three maiden special weight races and was in for a maiden $50,000 claiming tag today, was off as the 4-5 favorite in a field of 10 sophomore fillies. Breaking sharply from the far outside, she was quickly in-hand while mid-pack and although she mustered a good stretch rally, never threatened the winner, Queen of the Track, who sped to a gate to wire victory under Ruben Fuentes and paid $21.80 to win.
Gallantlystreaming finished 1 ¼ lengths in front of A Dime for Me and paid $2.80 and $2.40.
Although he had but one mount today, Espinoza, a winner of the 2015 Triple Crown and a total of three Kentucky Derbies, remains hopeful he can again “smell the roses” on the first Saturday in May.
“That’s my goal, hopefully I can find a Derby horse,” he said. “That would be so awesome to come back and ride that race, not just ride it, I want to win it again!”