05/03/2014 8:22PM

Jose Espinoza savors brother's Derby win

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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.”