is back. The leading rider at Santa Anita in 2003-04, Espinoza won the Kentucky Derby in 2002 and was continually among Southern California’s leaders from 2000 until recent years when the arrival of young lions helped thrust him from his place in the sun.
But that was then and this is now. Espinoza, a 41-year-old Mexico City native, caught the attention of horsemen and horse players alike at the recent Del Mar meet where he enjoyed a remarkably steady campaign, winning 27 races, finishing second 25 times and third 22 from 165 mounts.
Espinoza tied for third with Edwin Maldonado at Del Mar, missing second by one (Martin Garcia had 28, well behind leader Rafael Bejarano, who won 46).
“He’s a pretty consistent rider, day in and day out,” said Espinoza’s agent, Brian Beach. “People know what they’re going get. During Del Mar, Victor was out there working hard and it paid off in the afternoons.
“You’re only as good as the horses you get and (leading trainer) John Sadler was pretty loyal to him for the whole meet. He won a few stakes for John and rode some good horses for him, and that helps, because it brings you other business.”
Espinoza hopes to land in the winner’s circle Saturday when he rides impressive maiden winner Schoolofhardrocks
for trainer David Hofmans and owners John and Jerry Amerman in the Grade I, “Win and You’re In” FrontRunner Stakes for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.
“He’s a very talented horse,” Espinoza said of the son of Rock Hard Ten bred by John’s wife, Jerry. “I liked him the first time I saw him. I was impressed with how he ran going a mile and winning from the one hole (at odds of 10-1 Aug. 31 at Del Mar). I feel he’ll get even better.”
Espinoza was aboard Schoolofhardrocks for a six furlong drill Wednesday in 1:00.80 on Santa Anita’s main track. “Very nice and easy,” Espinoza said of the move.