Victor Espinoza (born May 23, 1972) is a jockey in American Thoroughbred horse racing. He began riding in his native Mexico and went on to compete at racetracks in California. He has won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes twice, riding War Emblem in 2002 and California Chrome in 2014.
Espinoza was born on a dairy farm in Hidalgo, Mexico, the eleventh of twelve children. He and his brother Jose, his senior by three years, enjoyed riding horses on the farm; when he was 15 he traveled to Cancún to assist his brother as a quarter horse trainer. Within a few years, Espinoza was racing thoroughbreds at Mexico City's premier horse-racing facility, Hipódromo de las Américas. He paid for jockey school by driving a bus in Mexico City at age 17. He then moved to Northern California, where by 1994 he was the leading apprentice rider at the Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields racetracks. A year later, he moved to Los Angeles.
His big break came in 2000 when he won the Breeders' Cup Distaff aboard Spain; and in 2002, he won both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes atop War Emblem. Between 2000 and 2006 he averaged 193 wins a year and twice finished third in total earnings among jockeys. Espinoza logged his 3,000th career win, aboard Flashy Delight, on May 31, 2013, at Betfair Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California. In June 2014 Espinoza travelled to Britain to win the Windsor Castle Stakes at the Royal Ascot meeting on the Wesley A. Ward-trained colt Hootenanny.
In December 2013 Espinoza was selected as the jockey for California Chrome by veteran horse trainer Art Sherman, who had used him as a jockey during Espinoza's years in Northern California. Up to that point, California Chrome had won only 2 of its 6 starts. Espinoza rode California Chrome to consecutive victories in the King Glorious Stakes on December 22, the California Cup Derby on January 25, 2014, the San Felipe Stakes on March 8, and the Santa Anita Derby on April 5.
On May 3, 2014, Espinoza lengthened the winning streak as he rode California Chrome to victory in the Kentucky Derby, marking the jockey's second Kentucky Derby win. On May 17, California Chrome placed first in the Preakness Stakes, also Espinoza's second Preakness win. On June 7, Espinoza's 6 for 6 streak aboard California Chrome came to an end when, due to an injury sustained right out of the starting gate, the Triple Crown contender finished in a dead heat for fourth place in the Belmont Stakes.
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- Layden, Tim (15 May 2014). "Victor and Jose Espinoza share a career but lead two different lives". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
- Arrington, Debbie (30 May 2014). "The players behind California Chrome bring passion". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
- Drape, Joe (17 May 2014). "California Chrome Wins Preakness for Second Jewel". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
- Crawford, Eric (17 May 2014). "Preakness: From humble beginnings to riding Chrome". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
- "Victor Espinoza notches 3,000th win". PR Newswire. 1 June 2013. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
- "Hootenanny stretches clear in the Windsor Castle Stakes". the-racehorse.com. Retrieved 17 June 2014.
- Jerardi, Dick (6 June 2014). "Espinoza has California Chrome on winning track". philly.com. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
- "Santa Anita Park- January 25, 2014 – Race 10" (PDF). Equibase. January 25, 2014. Retrieved April 8, 2014.
- "Santa Anita Park- March 8, 2014 – Race 5" (PDF). Equibase. March 8, 2014. Retrieved April 8, 2014.
- "Trainers". Santa Anita Park. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
- Janack, Phil (2014). "California Chrome Looks to Shine Again in Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes". New York Racing Association. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
- Hoppert, Melissa (7 June 2014). "Tonalist Wins Belmont Stakes, Denying the Triple Crown for California Chrome". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 June 2014.
- Dwyre, Bill (12 May 2014). "Victor Espinoza has a cause beyond riding California Chrome to victory". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 June 2014.
- Harmonson, Tom (13 May 2014). "Jockey Generous". Los Angeles Register. Retrieved 2 June 2014.