Racing is a little brighter today.
Victor Espinoza is back with his smile that would light up a room.
For the first time in more than five months, when he suffered fractured vertebrae and other serious injuries in a training mishap at Del Mar on July 22, the 46-year-old Hall of Fame member and three-time Kentucky Derby winner was in the saddle, working former stakes winner St. Joe Bay for trainer John Sadler at 7:45 Saturday morning, going five furlongs in 1:01.
One might have thought he was aboard Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh, with media attending en masse for the occasion.
“I feel good,” Espinoza said at Sadler's barn after the drill. “Basically, my fitness is returning, but it's only one horse. It was kind of John to let me work him. It's like riding a bicycle. It takes a little practice, but I didn't expect to come back at 100 percent after one work.
“The brain restarted the whole process of riding and I'll come back again, work more horses and hopefully start riding soon.” That wasn't always Victor's mindset.
“In the beginning, I thought I'd never want to ride again, and going through all the rehab and exercises, I just wanted to get better,” he said. “I wasn't thinking about riding.
“But as time went by, I felt better physically and mentally. Now, for the last month and a half, I feel I can come back because I'll be 100 percent.”
Exactly when Espinoza works his next horse is up in the air.
“It depends on the weather and his scheduled therapy sessions,” said agent Brian Beach, who also represents Victor's nephew, apprentice Asa Espinoza. “Monday will probably be a big work day here if it rains Sunday as expected. Victor has to be back home at Del Mar, so he may not be back here to work another horse until next weekend.”
That said, understandably Beach was beyond pleased to have his Triple Crown-winning jockey back.
“It's exciting to see him out here,” Beach said. “He's pretty much been in San Diego and Del Mar ever since the accident in July. He hasn't been at Santa Anita until yesterday, so it's good to have him out here in familiar territory.
“It's satisfying to see him on the back of a horse with that usual smile on his face.”
.@VictorEspinoza thought he may never ride or even walk again, but he has fought his way back through an amazing recovery. He expressed his excitement to be back on the track to @zoecadman & said he may be back to riding races by the end of the month
Full: https://t.co/ZEZ8yfMVZ9 pic.twitter.com/cZj78DZdjZ
— XBTV (@WatchXBTV) January 5, 2019
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