How He Won the Kentucky Derby

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5/16/2014
5:00 pm EDT

Here's a blow-by-blow description by Victor Espinoza of his experience riding California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby -- from the travails of the starting gate until he pulled the trigger.

“After the gates closed for the Derby, I was OK, but not California Chrome. When he walked into the gate, he was leaning to the outside. I’m like, ‘This is not good.’ A couple seconds later, he leaned to the left side. The assistant starter did an unbelievable job handling the horse. He took his time. I know there were 19 horses, but they were loaded really quick.

“Then, for a second, California Chrome moved right in the middle of the gate and he stayed still. When I heard there was one horse left to load on the outside, I said, ‘Just sit.’ And sure enough, when the gates opened, I bounced out of there as quick as possible.

“All the way around, the six horse (Samraat) didn’t leave me alone the whole race. He was outside of me and I could hear him breathing hard and I said, ‘He’s done,’ but on the middle of the turn, he was still there, and I didn’t want him to move, because if he moved early, then I had to make my move, and you know the stretch is long at Churchill Downs.

“I had to be patient. At that point, I had an excellent position, outside, tracking, just perfect, but I wanted to wait as long as I could. Finally, I decided, that’s it. Let’s go. Whatever happens is going to happen, and it worked out well.”