It was a simple sign, taped to the top of a corner locker in the Hollywood Park jockeys' room. "We love you, Chapo--Welcome home Kentucky Derby champion." The small banner was put up courtesy of Armando Sanchez, valet to one Victor Espinoza. The words were few, highlighted in bright orange, but the message was clear. "And you see there's a star," Sanchez added, pointing out a significant detail to a visitor. "That's the first jewel. There's two more to go. I'm crossing my fingers." Only time will tell if Sanchez will be able to add the remaining pair. Meanwhile, Espinoza is keeping the torch as hot as ever. Still energized by his unforgettable moment aboard War Emblem, the latest jockey to join the Derby brotherhood zipped right back to Southern California the next morning, rode the entire card that afternoon, and promptly bagged the one weekend race that counted most. And of course, Espinoza's victory aboard Night Patrol in the $109,700 Inglewood Handicap (gr. IIIT) on May 5 was not without flair, accomplished in the same front-running fashion that put War Emblem in the history books. It was a recent defeat, however, that made all the difference in the 11?16-mile Inglewood. They had teamed up once before, a month earlier for Santa Anita's Arcadia Handicap (gr. IIT). That day, Espinoza had wrangled Night Patrol off the lead, tactics the gelding apparently resented. Nevertheless, Night Patrol lost by a mere two lengths, more than enough--at least in Espinoza's eyes--to affirm his quality. When he huddled with trainer Nick Canani prior to the Inglewood, the new strategy was obvious. "Today I decided to just leave him alone," Espinoza said. "These old horses, they know what to do. When he takes the lead, he's nice and relaxed." A 6-year-old son of Storm Boot bred and owned by Everest Stables, Night Patrol responded with a career performance. Though favored Redattore flanked him the entire trip, Night Patrol had things his own way throughout the Inglewood. Redattore finally went after him on the far turn, but even his best shot wasn't good enough. Night Patrol was elusive, always a step ahead. After sweeping through a mile in 1:33.28, they reached the finish a half-length apart in a florid 1:39.35.
"I only trained him to run :39 and two or three," said Redattore's trainer, Richard Mandella, fighting to keep a straight face. "Just second best." Last seen taking the San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) on dirt in early February, Redattore proved his aching feet--at least for now--are under control. Night Patrol, meanwhile, staked his claim as one to reckon with in the May 27 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT). Though Canani declined to commit right away, the opportunity may be too sweet to pass up. "He loves this grass course," Canani said, adverting to Night Patrol's two-for-two record over the Hollywood layout. "He beat a good field today."(Chart, Equibase)