ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 24, 2016)–As America’s first Triple Crown Champion jockey in 37 years, Victor Espinoza helped Thoroughbred racing project a positive image far beyond the confines of the Thoroughbred industry throughout 2015, thus elevating the sport’s exposure and acceptance to a level perhaps not seen since the 1970s. Accordingly, Espinoza, a 43-year-old native of Mexico City, has been selected by a vote of jockeys nationwide as the winner of Santa Anita’s highly coveted 2016 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award.
“It’s quite an honor for any rider to be selected by his peers as the winner of such a prestigious award,” said Terry Meyocks, National Manager of the Jockeys’ Guild. “And I would like to congratulate Victor on this great achievement.”
In addition to numerous national television appearances through the 2015 Triple Crown and last fall’s Breeders’ Cup World Championships, Espinoza also remained tireless in his efforts on behalf of cancer-stricken youth, donating 10 percent of his winnings to support pediatric cancer research at City of Hope, in nearby Duarte.
With the Bob Baffert-trained American Pharoah providing the horsepower, Espinoza gleefully proclaimed himself “The luckiest Mexican on earth,” on national television following their win in the Belmont Stakes June 6.
In addition to winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont, Espinoza and Santa Anita-based American Pharoah won last year’s Grade II Rebel Stakes, Grade I Arkansas Derby, Grade I Haskell Invitational and, in a performance for the ages, the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic by 6 ½ lengths on Oct. 31–all the while elevating the profile of jockeys nationwide and generating tremendous ratings on a consistent basis.
Born on a dairy farm near Mexico City, Espinoza is the 11th of 12 children. A three-time ESPY Award winner, Espinoza has three career Kentucky Derby wins, three Preakness victories, three Breeders’ Cup wins and he’s taken 11 Southern California riding titles.
First presented by Santa Anita in 1950, Espinoza is the 67th winner of the Woolf Award, which seeks to honor riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and Thoroughbred racing. The remaining four finalists for this year’s award, which can only be won once during a rider’s career, were Joe Bravo, Javier Castellano, Gerard Melancon and Joe Steiner.
Espinoza will be presented with the 2016 Woolf Award trophy in a Winner’s Circle ceremony on Sunday, March 13.