Kentucky Derby Winner Victor Espinoza at Santa Anita Autograph signing

Saturday morning, after being out of town for the last few weekends in a row, it was just an incredible feeling to walk into Santa Anita for the races.

My brother and I were guests of the track, with free club house passes and programs, but this was no ordinary day at the track. We had our agenda set, still buzzing from the Kentucky Derby, my brother and I got in line for an autographed poster from Victor Espinoza, jockey on California Chrome, one of the sweetest horses I’ve ever bet on. I was also there to claim my cash from an online bet. There is an xpressbet window at Santa Anita, and I use it quite a bit. This is how I bet on the derby from the comfort of a CPK in the Mirage Sportsbook. Slick.

I was there (Vegas) to put money on California Chrome. This horse has carried a lot of my money on his back, and along with Commanding curve, won me enough to break me even for the entire Vegas weekend, with some playing around money left over. He’s a beast, beating the rest of the pack by 3 or 4 lengths and still pulling away, we’ve been following this horse for a while. My brother still carries around footage on his phone, of California Chrome winning the Santa Anita Derby earlier this year.

Well, Saturday at Santa Anita, his jockey Espinoza was there to sign autographs, and the line was long and early. The advertised time was 11-12, but actually took place at around 12-1. We did not mind, we waited in line and chatted with strangers about bets we’d made, and our lucky weekend in Vegas. We speculated on the Preakness and the Belmont, and there were rumors flying around about horses that were not going to race in the Preakness.  A couple of Santa Anita workers laid out the posters, and a bunch of California Chrome T Shirts for $15 a pop.

Once Espinoza arrived, a cheer went up. The feeble cheer an early, tired Saturday morning makes. Espinoza took his place underneath a pop up tent, I snuck around the side and was snapping pics.  I heard a bigshot in a suit say “Oh, we can speed up the process”, worried about the long line. I was reminded how small jockeys were when you see them up close. Damn.

Espinoza started signing immediately. The line moved fast, and people who were expecting pictures and conversation were shuffled past him, handed a signed posted and sent on their way.

I made sure my brother went around for a pic, and snapped a couple with my brother. My brother didn’t say anything to Espinoza. He posed for a quick pic, grabbed his poster and was about to run off without taking MY PIC, until I called him back and made sure he took a pic.

I was going to address Espinoza in Spanish, but he was speaking in English, so instead of posing for a pic, I told him, “You know, a bunch of went to Vegas for the derby, and I had a lot of fun watching you ride that horse and won some good money on it.”

He paused and looked up and said “Oh yeah?” and had what appeared to be a look of enjoyment. I told him it was true, and that we had a great time, and thanked him profusely and he sort of chuckled as I walked off. He’s one of the greats, and I was pretty stoked to meet him so shortly after he had done so well in the Derby.

 

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