Jockey Victor Espinoza plans to donate 100% of his earnings for the week beginning Aug. 10 at the Del Mar race meet to the California Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Foundation, to be used exclusively to assist Southern California racetrack grooms.
CTHF is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in the community of stable workers occupied with the care of Thoroughbred racehorses at California’s major racetracks, fair circuit tracks, and state recognized off-track training centers. CTHF administers medical and dental services through its on-track clinics, making health care accessible and affordable for more than 5,000 backstretch workers and their families.
“Everybody has done a lot of things for different foundations, but I never hear about anybody doing something just for the grooms,” said Espinoza. “The grooms are important for everybody in horse racing; they take care of the horses more than anybody, sometimes 24 hours a day,” he continued. “If a horse gets sick at midnight, who’s going to be there? The groom has to get up. But if the grooms are sick, they can’t take care of the horses.”
Espinoza initially contacted Madeline Auerbach, an owner and longtime friend who recently accepted an appointment to the CTHF advisory board.
“Victor came to me and said, ‘I want to do something for the grooms. Can you help me do it?’ and I thought CTHF would be a good fit,” said Auerbach.
“Victor is not only a great guy and very talented journeyman, but he actually cares about the racing community,” she added. “He has tremendous respect for the grooms and understands that what they bring to the sport really makes a difference. To be honest, a good groom can make the difference between winning and losing.”
Espinoza, a 39-year-old native of Mexico City, is one of the nation’s leading riders with 2,844 career victories through Aug. 2 and $143,631,098 in earnings. He won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) aboard Spain in 2000 and captured both the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) with War Emblem in 2002. He holds 11 southern California meet titles including three at Del Mar, where he had a record-setting seven victories on Labor Day, Sept. 4, 2006.
“I decided to do this because I’m doing good," said Espinoza. "I don’t mind riding one week for free. Besides, when I went down the other day, I didn’t break my ankle, so even better," he added in reference to a July 24 spill at Del Mar in which he sustained a sprain.
“If I had ended up breaking my ankle that day I would be out for a month or two, the whole season."
Espinoza added: “I hope that other jockeys will want to do this. We just need to start.”