BALTIMORE — After falling one race short of the Triple Crown 12 years ago, Victor Espinoza figured he had missed his chance at horse racing history.
Then he got aboard California Chrome.
After winning the Kentucky Derby on May 3 and then guiding the chestnut colt to victory in the Preakness on Saturday, Espinoza will get another opportunity to close out a Triple Crown on June 7 in the Belmont.
“I’m ready for it,” the 41-year-old native of Mexico said.
Espinoza needed only to win the Belmont on War Emblem in 2002 to secure the sport’s first Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. But his horse stumbled to his knees at the start and never recovered.
“In a million years I didn’t think I was going to have a second chance,” Espinoza said.
“I was very close once. Life goes on. But after a decade, here we go. I’m here again.”
SECOND TO ONE: Unsatisfied with the rides of some of Ride On Curlin’s former jockeys, trainer Billy Gowan said he simply wanted his colt to get a fighting chance in the Preakness.
Jockey Jose Rosario gave him just that, recovering from a slow start to make
his move down the stretch before finishing second, 1½ lengths behind California Chrome.
“I thought it was awesome,” Gowan said. “He was in a good spot down the back. Joel said he got shut off for a second, but he came running in the stretch and gave me a heck of a thrill.”
It was a vast improvement from Ride On Curlin’s 11th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby with Calvin Borel aboard.
Gowan said he plans to send the horse to the Belmont, provided the colt comes out of this race in good shape.
FILLY OVERMATCHED: The first time Borel rode a filly in the Preakness, he won it in 2009 on Rachel Alexandra, the eventual Horse of the Year.
He had a forgettable experience on Saturday on the overmatched filly Ria Antonia, who finished last, 31 lengths behind California Chrome.