California Chrome's remarkable run on the Triple Crown trail must have felt like déjà vu for Victor Espinoza. Twelve years after he swept the Kentucky Derby and Preakness with War Emblem in 2002, Espinoza guided California Chrome to victories 2014 Derby and Preakness to extend the Lucky Pulpit colt's winning streak to six and place him on the cusp of becomeing the 12th horse in Thoroughbred racing history to win the U.S. Triple Crown. While the pair didn't win the Triple Crown in 2014, California Chrome was named champion 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year that year. Victor Espinoza was also the regular rider of 2014 champion 2-year-old colt American Pharoah, one of the early favorites for the 2015 Kentucky Derby.
Before turning to riding, Espinoza drove a bus in his hometown of Mexico City. He took riding lessons on a farm outside of Mexico after high school, and then attended jockey school for a year, which is a requirement in Mexico.
Four months after winning his first race at Hippodromo de las Americas he moved his tack to the U.S. His brother Jose rides in New York and another brother, Leo, is a former jockey. Espinoza rode at Santa Anita and then moved to Northern California, where he was the leading apprentice at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields. He headed back down the coast to the more lucrative Southern California circuit and won riding titles at Fairplex in 1996 and 1997. Espinoza had a breakout year in 2000 when he won or shared three major riding titles, won 15 graded stakes and finished seventh nationally with $13.2 million in purse earnings.
In 2002, War Emblem's Triple Crown bid ended when he went to his knees leaving the starting gate of the Belmont Stakes and subsequently finished eighth.
In addition to California Chrome and War Emblem, Espinoza's top mounts include The Tin Man, Evening Jewel, The Usual Q.T., Spain and Smiling Tiger.