The 43-year-old native of Mexico City became part of Thoroughbred history at Belmont Park on June 6 when he guided Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner American Pharoah to a dominating 5 ½-length triumph in the Belmont Stakes. The Bob Baffert trainee became the first horse in 37 years to pull off a sweep of the Triple Crown.
“I’m very much looking forward to a return to South Florida and Gulfstream Park. If I remember right, my last time there was the Breeders’ Cup of 1999,” said Espinoza, who rode Kirkwall in an eighth-place finish behind Silic in the 1999 Breeders’ Cup Mile. “I heard Mr. (Frank) Stronach has done some amazing things there in recent years and I can’t wait to ride there again.”
The first Latino jockey to ride a Triple Crown champion, Espinoza is scheduled to sign autographs for charity prior to the Summit of Speed program.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming Victor Espinoza to Gulfstream Park over the Fourth of July Weekend,” said The Stronach Group's Vice President of Racing and Gulfstream's General Manager P.J. Campo. “Our summer program continues to grow while drawing some of the top horses and horsemen from around the country, and we’re honored that Victor will be among them.”
Espinoza’s appearance will be just one of the highlights during the Fourth of July weekend. Along with Sunday’s $1.175 million Summit of Speed program, Gulfstream will celebrate Saturday’s July 4th holiday with fun family activities beginning at 2 p.m., as well as the GirlsGotGame Handicapping Challenge and a Grand Illuminations celebration by Grucci beginning at 9 p.m.
Before American Pharoah’s historic run, Espinoza had ridden two horses that sought Triple Crown glory in the Belmont Stakes: California Chrome, who finished in a dead-heat for fourth in 2014, and War Emblem, who checked in eighth in 2002.
In this year’s Belmont, Espinoza sent American Pharoah directly to the lead in the 1 ½-mile classic and drew off to complete his Triple Crown quest after quickly dismissing a stretch challenge by eventual runner-up Frosted.
The personable Espinoza, who drove a bus in Mexico City before deciding to become a jockey, has been very much in demand for personal appearances after attracting worldwide media attention to Thoroughbred racing with his Triple Crown success with American Pharoah.
The 5-foot-2, 114-pound athlete ventured to the United States in 1993 and has been riding primarily in Southern California since 1996. His mounts have won 3220 races and more than $175 million in purses.
Espinoza will have the opportunity to add to those impressive totals while competing on the $1.175 million Summit of Speed program at Gulfstream on July 5. A total of nine stakes (four graded) are scheduled to be contested that day, including the $250,000 Princess Rooney (G2) and the $250,000 Smile Sprint (G2), both Breeders’ Cup Challenge ‘Win and You’re In’ stakes.