Espinoza Honored by California State Assembly

Taking time out from the state's budget crisis, the California State Assembly honored jockey Victor Espinoza July 1 for his achievements, particularly his wins in the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes aboard War Emblem.

"I've never been nervous until today," Southern California-based Espinoza said after he accepted the Assembly resolution. "I didn't know I would speak, then I had too much running through my mind that I wanted to say."

Espinoza kept his acceptance speech--delivered in both English and Spanish--short, and referred to his Belmont Stakes loss. War Emblem stumbled badly out of the gate and lost his chance to complete Triple Crown sweep. "Thank you for inviting me," Espinoza told the lawmakers. "I hope next year I'll do a better job."

The Republican Latino Caucus sponsored the resolution, presented by Assemblyman Robert Pacheco. Espinoza, who broke in as an apprentice in Northern California, become the first Mexican-born jockey to win two jewels in the Triple Crown.

But Espinoza was a popular guest for several lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, many of whom claimed to have wagered on War Emblem.

"We invited him right after the Derby," said Assemblyman Tony Strickland, who is the House's major advocate for horse racing issues. "Victor is one of the sport's rising stars. He could be another Eddie Arcaro or Bill Shoemaker."

Espinoza saidenjoyed his visit to the state capital. "I had a lot of fun," he said. "We walked around the Capitol, and really enjoyed it. It's nice to do something different that's not always with horses."