10/02/2016 4:49PM

Jockey Espinoza has career day with three Grade 1 wins

Debra A. Roma
Victor Espinoza, 44, began his racing career in 1992.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Victor Espinoza, a jockey with numerous accomplishments, reached a career milestone at Santa Anita on Saturday – three Grade 1 wins in a single day.

Espinoza won the $300,690 FrontRunner Stakes for 2-year-olds with Gormley, the $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes with California Chrome, and the $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes for fillies and mares with Stellar Wind.

His only other day nearly as productive occurred at Churchill Downs on May 2, 2015, when Espinoza won consecutive Grade 1 races - the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Finnegans Wake and the Kentucky Derby on American Pharoah. Espinoza was aboard American Pharoah for his sweep of the Triple Crown.

Espinoza won four stakes for California-breds on a single-day at Santa Anita in November 2003. The 44-year-old jockey began his career in 1992.

Of his three Grade 1 wins Saturday, Gormley was the surprise winner. He was 10-1 in the FrontRunner, a prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5.

California Chrome was 2-5 to win the Awesome Again Stakes and scored easily in a prep for the BC Classic on Nov. 5. California Chrome was the 2014 Horse of the Year, the year Espinoza rode him to wins in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

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Stellar Wind, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2015, won her second consecutive Grade 1 race in the Zenyatta as the 2-1 choice. She beat Beholder, the three-time champion. Stellar Wind will run in the BC Distaff on Nov. 4.

Those three give Espinoza a strong team of runners for Breeders’ Cup weekend here on Nov. 4-5.

This weekend, Espinoza has at least two mounts in leading stakes at Santa Anita – Express Himself in the $200,000 City of Hope Mile on turf Saturday, and Juno in Sunday’s $100,000 L.A. Woman Stakes. The City of Hope Mile is a prep for the BC Mile, while the L.A. Woman Stakes is expected to produce runners for the BC Filly and Mare Sprint.

Gormley won his stakes debut in the FrontRunner, having won a maiden race at Del Mar on Sept. 4. Gormley led throughout to win the FrontRunner at 1 1/16 miles by three lengths.

“He really impressed me with the way he won,” Espinoza said. “I’ve always liked him.”

Espinoza’s history with Gormley goes back to the summer, well before the colt made his debut. Espinoza recalled trainer John Shirreffs asked him to help with a workout when the colt began serious training.

“He said, ‘I want you to work him a quarter and tell me what you think,’” Espinoza recalled Sunday morning. “I thought, a quarter-mile? I worked him and he was nice and professional."
“John said, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘I really like him.’ ”

In the FrontRunner, Gormley took the lead and led by a length to early stretch, when he widened his advantage to three lengths at the finish over Klimt, the 3-10 favorite who won the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity at seven furlongs on Sept. 5.

The style of Gormley’s win surprised Shirreffs, who trains the colt for longtime clients Jerry and Ann Moss.

“We couldn’t have asked for more from the race,” Shirreffs said.

Gormley, by Malibu Moon, was listed as bought back for $150,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. He was later bought privately, Shirreffs said.

Gormley won his debut in a maiden race at 6 1/2 furlongs by 4 1/4 lengths Sept. 4.

“The first race we were hopeful that he’d run well, and he won and you think, Oh my goodness,” Shirreffs said.

“Can he repeat that? Did he get lucky? When you see him repeat the performance, that’s a good indication that he’s something special.”