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Espinoza Surges at Santa Anita Park

Jockey Victor Espinoza

With time and hard work, Victor Espinoza has nearly doubled his win percentage in less than two months.

The 40-year-old Tijuana native finished a lackluster Betfair Hollywood Park meet with seven victories from 51 mounts for a win percentage of 14.

Fast forward through 18 days of the current Santa Anita meet and Espinoza has 10 victories from 37 mounts for a winning percentage of 27, well above the best of any rider with at least three wins this meet. Espinoza also has three seconds and six thirds for an in-the-money percentage of 51.35.

“It’s like anything else,” reasoned Espinoza, who won the 2002 Kentucky Derby aboard War Emblem. “When you’re not winning that many, you try harder and work harder trying to reach the next step. Right now, I feel great and the horses are running great.

“The trainers I ride for, their horses run very well, so we’ll try to keep it going. Pretty much every horse I ride is in the money or wins, and that’s what I’m here for. I expect to win each time I go to the track.

“I don’t want to go out there just for a workout. I feel I’m riding as well as I did when I was younger, and I even feel stronger than before. I don’t ride the quality of horses that I used to, but the ones I ride right now are pretty good. When the barns I ride for start winning races, that’s what puts you on top. When they’re not, your percentage is very low.”

Espinoza hopes to enhance his impressive percentage Saturday when he rides Teddy’s Promise for owners Ted and Judy Nichols and trainer Ron Ellis in the Grade II Santa Monica Stakes at seven furlongs.

“Seven-eighths is one of her best distances,” Espinoza said of the 5-year-old California-bred mare by Salt Lake, who won the Grade I La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs in December of 2011. In her last start, Teddy’s Promise rolled to a 5 ¼-length triumph with Espinoza aboard in the 6 ½-furlong Kalookan Queen Stakes Dec. 29 on a wet/fast Santa Anita main track.

“She’s doing great,” said Espinoza, who is represented by agent Brad Pegram, as is Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. “She’s returned to her old form. Earlier, she bounced in a couple races, but after her last race, I think she’s back and will run like old times. The Kalookan Queen was not that tough a field, but she ran an unbelievable race.”

The field for the Santa Monica, the eighth of 10 races on Sunshine Millions Day at Santa Anita Saturday: Journaliste, Garrett Gomez, 15-1; Distracting, Rafael Bejarano, 6-1; Sugarinthemorning, Martin Garcia, 6-1; Teddy’s Promise, Espinoza, 3-1; Belle of the Hall, Corey Nakatani, 6-1; Byrama, Gary Stevens, 8-1; Rumor, Mike Smith, 4-1; Kindle, Edwin Maldonado, 4-1; and Pink Lollipops, Joe Talamo, 8-1.

 

 

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