Not much has been heard from Victor Espinoza since the world-renowned jockey was involved in a horrible accident at Del Mar race track that left his horse dead and the rider with a broken neck.
Espinoza was riding Bobby Abu Dhabi when the horse suffered a fatal heart attack on the track and sent the 5’1, 112-pound jockey flying into the air without any warning. After being quickly taken to the hospital, Espinoza was diagnosed with a fracture of his c3 vertebrae in his neck that had a paralyzing affect.
Now in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke, the man who rode American Pharoah to a Triple Crown in 2015 opened up about his recovery.
Espinoza was paralyzed on the track
When he came to after his fall, Espinoza revealed that he was unable to move his body at all. He tried wiping away the mud that had caked his face, but couldn’t feel his limbs.
“I thought, I’m being paralyzed. My mind is going crazy, thinking a lot of crazy things,’’ Espinoza told Plaschke. “In my mind I see all the wheelchairs around the barns. I was so scared. I saw was like, why does this happen to me?’’
Slowly, the jockey has been regaining movement across his body. He can walk, but it’s a struggle. The same goes for feeding himself. His neck is still in a brace, he’s unable to turn his head. His mobility is limited. There is still no feeling in his left arm. Currently, Espinoza needs a caregiver to help him get out of bed, dress, and clean himself.
Despite all that, he still thinks he’ll ride horses again, though he made clear he isn’t ready to discuss that yet.
“Our lives, our dangers, they are real; they are no joke,’’ Espinoza said. “People should know, this is what we risk every time we get on a horse.’’
Riding for free
One of the most astounding bits of information in Plaschke’s piece is that Espinoza was at the track the day of his accident as a courtesy. As a favor for trainer Peter Miller, Espinoza was working with the four-year-old Bobby Abu Dhabi when the horse collapsed on the home stretch.
“In 30 years of training, I’ve never had one fall like that,’’ Miller said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.’’
The jockey also mentioned that a visit from Bob Baffert — who trained American Pharoah among many other Triple Crown winners — was one of the major turning points during his hospital stay.
Now resting back at his home in Del Mar, not far from the track, Espinoza is slowly working his way back to full strength. With 3,358 victories in his rearview mirror, his next one will no doubt be his most rewarding.
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