|Monday, July 06, 2015||Contact: Andrew Chesser|
|An Interview with Triple Crown winning jockey, Victor Espinoza|
Courtesy of IFHA
Authored by Amanda Duckworth
Jockey Victor Espinoza is the first to say his life was changed forever the moment he won the Belmont Stakes aboard American Pharoah on June 6. With that victory, the United States had its first Triple Crown winner in 37 years, and it also propelled Espinoza to the top of the LONGINES World’s Best Jockey rankings halfway through the 2015 competition.
“I never thought I would be feeling this way or have so much happen in such a short period time,” said Espinoza. “It has been an amazing year in my career, and I am riding some amazing horses. It is unbelievable.”
Launched in 2014, the LONGINES World’s Best Jockey Award is presented by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA) and LONGINES to the jockey with the best performance in the world’s highest-rated races.
The scoring for the award is based upon performances in the 100 highest-rated Group 1 and Grade 1 races established for the year by the LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings Committee. The scoring incorporates races from 1 December of the previous year until 30 November of the current year. Jockeys accrue 12 points for a win, 6 points for placing second, and 4 points for placing third.
By winning the Belmont, Espinoza tied James McDonald, who rides predominately in Australia and posted five Group 1 victories during the autumn racing season there. Both men have a total of 66 points, as the result of five victories and one second-place finish a piece in qualifying races. Close behind is Solow’s regular rider, Maxime H. Guyon, who had 58 points as of 6 July.
Espinoza made headlines around the world due to his exploits with American Pharoah, who is currently the top ranked horse in the LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings. After sweeping the Triple Crown, the jockey has been asked to make multiple television appearances to discuss the experience.
“My life changed completely after that Saturday,” said Espinoza, who at age 43 is too young to remember Affirmed’s victory in 1978. “As soon as I crossed that wire, everything changed. I have been so busy, and I still keep going. I didn’t get to sleep much that first week. It is incredible that I get to talk about it and share it, though. I don’t mind. I make extra time for the fans to talk about it because it was something I had never seen, and now I am the one who won it. It was the first one for a lot of people.”
Another perk of his victories comes via the fact LONGINES is the official timekeeper of the Triple Crown. The winning connections of the three races are all presented with LONGINES Conquest Classic watches, and Espinoza has now been victorious in five of the last six Triple Crown races, as he also won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with California Chrome in 2014.
“For Longines to sponsor all the races is amazing, and I won’t forget that either,” Espinoza said. “Everyone asks me if I got another watch at the Belmont, and I say, ‘Yes,’ and show it to them. The one I am wearing is the Triple Crown one, the Belmont one. I love it, and it is the best watch ever.”
“They are all great, and I have a collection in my house. Everybody asks me if they can have one. I tell them, ‘Yes, you can have one. You can go to the store and buy one. I am not giving you one of mine!’ ”
Espinoza, who grew up on a dairy farm in Mexico, is the first Hispanic jockey to win the Triple Crown. The second youngest of 12 children, he drove buses in his native country to pay to attend jockey school before moving to the United States in 1990. Espinoza’s big break as a jockey came a decade later when he won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff with Spain.
He got his first Kentucky Derby mount in 2001, finishing third aboard Congaree, and then won the Run for the Roses for the first time the following year with War Emblem. In the 141-year history of the Derby, Espinoza is only the seventh jockey to win it three times and just the sixth to win back-to-back editions.
War Emblem also won the Preakness, but like California Chrome, he came up short in the Belmont. American Pharoah, however, did not, and together he and Espinoza rewrote the history books during a five-week span this year.
“The way I feel, I can’t even describe it,” said Espinoza. “I can only tell you that it is an amazing, amazing feeling.”
To keep track of the LONGINES World’s Best Jockey competition, visit www.ifhaonline.org. The jockey standings are updated regularly, and information about the inaugural winner, Ryan Moore, can also be found there.
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