With Heart and Determination Victor Espinoza Returns by Kaitlin Free

February 18, 2019

The human soul is an entity that cannot sit idle while business remains unfinished. It has nothing left to prove to anyone, except to one’s self. No matter how tough the going may be, hard knocking people like jockeys remain optimistic. Jockeys sustain hundreds of injuries a year, few of them being serious. When a serious injury does occur jockeys face the obstacle head on. Victor Espinoza is one of these jockeys. After suffering a catastrophic injury that should have ended his career, Espinoza put in the difficult work it took to make it back to the saddle. Many suggested retirement, stating he had nothing left to do or to prove. Victor is one of those jockeys that would rather go out on his own terms when the time is right. The time of the accident wasn’t right. After more than half a year of recovery, Victor Espinoza returns to the saddle on Monday.

On July 22, 2018 Espinoza was working horses on the Santa Anita track like he does every morning. Aboard the Peter Miller trainee Bobby Abu Dhabi, a routine workout soon became anything but routine. In a matter of several strides Bobby Abu Dhabi’s life was cut short and Espinoza’s was forever changed. The horse died immediately after fracturing a sesamoid in his right front and as a result suffered a neck fracture. Espinoza also had a neck fracture, after he was thrown to the ground. His C3 vertebra had took the brunt of the impact and was broken. This injury was not life threatening, but could have been paralyzing and certainly career ending. Espinoza experienced some numbness for a few days but came out of the incident incredibly lucky. He was in the hospital for an extended amount of time before completing months of physical therapy to regain strength and function in his neck. During those long days of therapy, Espinoza decided it wasn’t over.

Nearly six months had gone by before Victor Espinoza was healthy enough to return to Santa Anita. In January he sat on a horse for the first time since July, and soon later began to return to his normal routine of working horses in the morning. Not many believed he would ever get back on a horse again, let alone race again. At his age, Espinoza had done and seen it all. Between the first Triple Crown in 37 years and a career that spanned three decades, what more is left to accomplish? It isn’t about the accomplishments to Espinoza, but about returning to the career he knows and loves. Before his injury Victor was the regular rider of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate who went on to win the Eclipse Award for older male horse. 

Monday is the day for Victor Espinoza. The day he and those who always believed in his recovery have waited seven months for. He returns to Santa Anita in race one, aboard the #10 Gallantlystreaming. Espinoza teams up with the team of Hronis Racing and John Sadler, the connections he enjoyed the most success with in 2017 and 2018. He and Gallantlystreaming have a very realistic chance to win not only Espinoza’s first race back from injury, but the filly’s first race in her career.

Getting back on a horse is a huge victory in itself coming back from the type of injury Espinoza suffered. But Espinoza is looking for a different kind of victory and is anxious to get back into the winner’s circle. We aren’t sure how long he will continue to ride in the future, but that is a decision that Victor is happy he can make for himself.

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