09/05/2006 12:00AM

Espinoza's seven a record


DEL MAR, Calif. - Seven was jockey Victor Espinoza's lucky number on Monday at Del Mar. He won seven races on the card, setting a single-day record at the track, and by winning the first six races of the day he won seven races in a row, including the finale on Sunday. It proved a highlight to what has been a dominant summer for Espinoza, who long ago wrapped up his second straight riding title at Del Mar, which was to close on Wednesday.

After winning with his first six mounts on Monday, then finishing third in the day's seventh race, Espinoza got his record seventh victory of the day in the Del Mar Debutante aboard favored Point Ashley. Espinoza, 34, had two more opportunities on the 10-race card, including a terrific chance with Smooth Talk in the finale, but that horse finished second after making a bold, perhaps premature, brush to the front around the final turn.

Espinoza's seven wins surpassed the previous one-day record of six held by Rudy Rosales, Bill Shoemaker, and Laffit Pincay Jr., who did it twice, most recently in 1978.

"It's a great feeling," said Espinoza, who received a rousing cheer from the crowd of 20,424 when he returned to the winner's circle after his wins in the sixth and eighth races. "Sometimes as a kid, I would dream about winning the Kentucky Derby, and six or seven races in one day, and finally today was the day."

His seven straight wins, including the last race on Sunday, equaled a record held by Shoemaker, who won seven straight at Del Mar on Labor Day weekend of 1954.

"I'm speechless," Espinoza said at the end of the day. "I'm in shock from how many races I won in one day. I always wanted to do that, but winning back-to-back-to-back, over and over, it's just so hard."

Espinoza, who rivals Alex Solis for hardest-working rider in the room, gave credit to his agent, Tony Matos, for putting him on 10 live mounts Monday. Four of his winners Monday were the betting favorite.

"We're a good team," Espinoza said. "Tony works very hard."