Jockey Espinoza Confident on Eve of Belmont

According to Victor Espinoza, the Belmont Stakes is going to be just another race, and he is not going to be doing anything differently. Espinoza, who was scheduled to travel to Wall Street to close the stock market Friday afternoon, said he will not change his routine for the big race.

"I know what I have," Espinoza said. "I know he's the best horse and he can do it. He's one of the best horses I've ever ridden. I've ridden some of the best horses in the country, but War Emblem is something different. He just does things better than other horses. So, I'm not feeling any pressure. This is going to be just like another race to me."

Espinoza said he also doesn't worry about the competition, although he does study the opposition in the Daily Racing Form, and goes over each horse and each jockey's riding style.

"When I ride for Bob Baffert, I don't worry about other horses," he said. "Bob Baffert trains his horses to win, and I'm not afraid to let them run. War Emblem and I get along very well. Every time he sees me, he's the happiest guy in the world. We just have a great relationship. I don't bother him too much and I let him run, and I think he likes that. I didn't know him at all in the Derby, but the Preakness was a different story. I learned how to ride him and what he likes. He's more professional now and more focused."

Espinoza has continued to gain confidence in his ability ever since his upset victory aboard Spain in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Distaff. "That showed me I can win those types of races and beat anybody," Espinoza said.

Espinoza also feels that riding at Belmont Park, and going a mile and half, will not be a problem. "I don't think you need experience over a track. It's more important to have experience riding a particular horse," he said. "There's no need to do anything different going a mile and a half."

Espinoza has had an up-and-down relationship with Baffert, and before War Emblem, his greatest moments came aboard Officer, who provided Espinoza with his only victory at Belmont Park when he easily won the Champagne Stakes last fall. "Riding for Bob is easy when I win and difficult when I lose," Espinoza said.

He did admit the one race that did make him nervous was the Preakness, because he felt he had something to prove.

"Nobody believed his race in the Derby and I wanted to prove that it was not a fluke," he said. "The night before the race, I heard some bad things said about him on TV and that (ticked) me off, so I didn't sleep that night."