05/03/2014 8:22PM

Jose Espinoza savors brother's Derby win

Tom Keyser
Jose Espinoza (foreground, gray suit), whose riding career was derailed by a spill at Saratoga last summer, in the winner's circle after the Kentucky Derby with Victor Espinoza, aboard California Chrome.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Jose Espinoza just couldn’t stay away.

So confident that his brother, Victor, was going to win Saturday’s 140th Kentucky Derby aboard California Chrome, Jose made plans late Friday night to attend the Derby, a race he rode in for the first – and last – time last year.

Jose Espinoza, a jockey who has been forced to retire due to brain damage suffered in a spill Aug. 17 at Saratoga, flew from New York to Kentucky with his wife, Rufina, on Saturday morning. They arrived at the track at 4 p.m., just 2 1/2 hours before Victor Espinoza indeed guided California Chrome to victory.

“I had to go no matter what, no matter how I felt, because I felt he was going to win,” Jose Espinoza said. “I’m not that lucky to win, but I’m going to be there when my brother does.”

Espinoza rode in last year’s Kentucky Derby, finishing 10th aboard Giant Finish.

Espinoza, who at 44 is three years older than Victor, has only recently come to terms with the fact that he will never ride again. Doctors have told him that another fall could prove fatal. He said he told his brother that if he wins, he would definitely retire and put away any attempts of a comeback.

“Oh wait, I’m in trouble now,” Espinoza said as he sat in the back row, as his brother and the other connections of California Chrome conducted a post-race press conference. “That was very, very exciting for me.”

Espinoza said he knew at the three-furlong marker that California Chrome was going to win.

“I rode a lot of horses, and I knew he had a ton of horse,” Espinoza said. “This is my therapy. I recovered completely. Right now, I feel I’m going to be so strong.”

Fred Reardon More than 1 year ago
Good Luck Jose, and Victor, and the entire CaliChro crew!
MINGDAMERZLESS More than 1 year ago
Jose was always a class act and a greatly undweesimated jockey. He road the NY circuit with arguably the best money jockey's in the world and always was godd for 5 -10 long shot bombs on the turf during the meets. The sad part is that he was not given the 'good' horses to ride so he had to work extra hard for his mounts and money. This was evident in his great sucess at Tampa in 2011 where he dominated the jockey colony. I was there with my 16 year old son @ the rail when he went down at Saratogas and was hoping for tthe best, not to be. I remember we shouted out to hiim in the post parade and he gave us haqppy smile and athunbs up. If the horse had been sound, I believe he would have won that race and he be at Belmont now. God bless you Jose, we wish you happiness and good fortune for your future endeavors. Victor is very lucky to have abrother like you. Norm M Syracuse - NY
Matt Banchero More than 1 year ago
Good for Jose! He was good on the front end.....0 brought in a lot of live longshots