Victor Espinoza

Victor Espinoza

Anne M. Eberhardt

Espinoza Ready to Embark for Royal Ascot

After Triple Crown assault on California Chrome, rider has several mounts in London.

With his Triple Crown assault aboard California Chrome  behind him, jockey Victor Espinoza is set to add to his frequent flier miles when he leaves for England Sunday, June 15.

The 42-year-old rider is to compete at the Royal Ascot meeting for the first time from June 17-21. Espinoza is engaged to ride several juveniles for American-based trainer Wesley Ward in London.

Espinoza recently returned from New York after dual classic winner California Chrome lost in his bid to become the 12th Triple Crown winner with a dead-heat fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

"It was a great run for me and California Chrome," Espinoza said. "He's still my favorite. He ran a big race in the Belmont. Now that I'm back at Santa Anita, I was able to return to my normal routine for a couple of days before going to England."

Second-guessers had their moment in the sun after the Belmont loss, but as always, Espinoza took the shots in stride.

"I think a lot of things went against him," Espinoza said of California Chrome, who was unbeaten in six straight races with Espinoza aboard before the Belmont. "He was probably overwhelmed by the Belmont. I believe he still could have won if he hadn't been kicked on his (right front) foot. That's very painful for a horse.

"It may not seem like it, but that's a tough spot to suffer a cut. It wasn't easy to run well after what happened to him. You can make as many excuses as you want, but I really think it affected him. He didn't get beat that far, either. Two lengths, that's it."

California Chrome is taking a welcome breather and not expected to race again until perhaps a month or so before the Nov. 1 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I), which will be run for the third consecutive year on the colt's favorite track, Santa Anita Park. That's where California Chrome won the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) and Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) in advance of his valiant triumph in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).