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Victor Espinoza: Sights Were Set, Now the Dream Is Realized

Over the past 15 years, there’s quite a case to be made for Victor Espinoza being the nation’s hottest professional jockey. After all, he has won seven Triple Crown races, numerous other Grade 1 races both in the United States and abroad, and the grandest of all accomplishments – being the winning jockey of America’s Triple Crown – the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. That feat was accomplished aboard 2015 Horse of the Year American Pharoah as horse and rider became the first to sweep the three races since Affirmed and jockey Steve Cauthen in 1978.
 
Add to that riding California Chrome to two (!) Horse of the Year titles and to the top of the North American all-time money-earning list for a time with more than $14.7 million in purses, which included capturing the Dubai World Cup in 2016 after finishing second in that race in 2015. California Chrome, now at stud, is still second leading earner behind Arrogate.
 
And now comes induction to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame on August 4 at Saratoga, N.Y. With his credentials and accomplishments, there’s little doubt that he belongs there.
 
Even so, the 44-year-old native of a rural town outside of Mexico City remains as low-key as he is high-riding about his impending mantle of pre-eminence among American jockeys. “It’s (the Hall of Fame) what we work for during our careers,” he said. “It requires success over a lot of years. Obviously, it doesn’t come easy.
 
“I never thought a guy like me would get there, but after winning my first Kentucky Derby (2002 aboard War Emblem), I set my sights on it. I’ve worked very hard for it.” War Emblem also won the Preakness to set the stage for a Triple Crown bid, but stumbled badly at the break in the Belmont, dooming his chance.
 

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