Aboard Gormley, Espinoza seeks rare air -- a fourth Derby win

Aboard Gormley, Espinoza seeks rare air -- a fourth Derby win

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Jockey Victor Espinoza has won three Kentucky Derby races, including two years ago aboard American Pharoah on his way to the Triple Crown.

The 44-year-old who also booted War Emblem and California Chrome home to Derby wins is being inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame this year.

Espinoza said it's "impossible" to separate the best horses he's ridden from some of the others, noting American Pharoah "was a once-in-a-lifetime horse."

"With (Pharoah and Chrome) it's hard (not to want another one)," he said. "But I know every horse I get on is not going to be like those two."

But Espinoza is hoping his mount in Saturday's Kentucky Derby – the John Shirreffs-trained Gormley - is not too far off from those two Derby winners. The son of Malibu Moon comes to the Derby off a victory in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby.

"I like that we're being overlooked," he said with a smile. "I don't mind (people) talking about other horses and let them have the pressure. Gormley is doing well and I don't mind a lot of people not talking about us."

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A winner of more than 3,300 races in his career, the native of Mexico who came to the United States in 1993 has become one of the elite riders in the sport.

He's won virtually every major race in the country, including the Triple Crown, and in early August will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He said on Tuesday at Churchill Downs that his recent success has helped business for sure.

"That's why I'm here with Gormley," he said. "I know I'm very fortunate and I get lucky with the horses I get on. (Before the last two Derby wins) I maybe had a little pressure on me but now it's much more. Now, everybody expects me to win."

If he is to win a fourth Derby, Espinoza will do it with a horse he called a "troublemaker." Gormley has four wins in six career starts.

"He's fun to be around," Espinoza said. "Just look at him. He's like a little child. He likes to play around and he likes to bite. He likes to do a lot of silly things. But when it comes to the races he doesn't play around. He is fun for me."

And in a Derby that he calls "wide open," Espinoza thinks he has a shot with Gormley. He won his first two races last year.

"Gormley looks great and I think with a little luck we can win this race," Espinoza said. "I don't see any outstanding horse going into the Derby. Everybody is pretty even and I think we can be right there."

With the media surrounding him on the backside at the Downs, Espinoza said "this never gets old," noting the Derby is an ultimate goal for every jockey.

"The Derby is always so much fun and I want to win it again," he said.

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