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
“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
“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.