While California Chrome relaxed in his stall at Belmont before Saturday's attempt to win the Triple Crown, jockey Victor Espinoza and assistant trainer Alan Sherman enjoyed the perks of celebrity by each throwing out the first pitch Monday night at Yankee Stadium. Sherman fired a strike, while Espinoza was just a little high.
No one would have appreciated the jockey more than the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who had a racing stable. Asked if he ever wore Steinbrenner's colors, Espinoza said, "I'm sure I have, but I rode so many horses, I don't know. I met him one time. It was just to say "Hi" and "Bye." It was in Florida. I don't know what year. Just briefly."
In 2002, Espinoza had another chance to win the Triple Crown, but War Emblem stumbled badly out of the gate and ultimately faded to eighth.
"I think this year, I feel more confident than in 2002," Espinoza said. "War Emblem was a difficult horse to ride. He loved to go up to the front, and that was a big problem for me because you're going a mile and a half.
"In one second, I already know I'm done because I lost my chance out of the gate. California Chrome is different. He's really kind. He's got tremendous balance, and he likes to run anywhere. Whatever I want him to do, he will do it. So that's my big advantage I have."