The Kentucky Derby in the words of the winners, from Smith to Espinoza

The Kentucky Derby is celebrating its 150th running this Saturday. Some of racing's greatest horses, like Secretariat, Affirmed and Citation, are among its champions. The roll call of winners includes trainers and jockeys, too. Here are memories from some of them:


Smith has ridden in the Kentucky Derby 28 times — the most of any jockey — and has two memorable yet different victories.

In 2005, Smith was aboard 50-1 shot Giacomo, named for a son of musician Sting who was friends with the owner and breeder, A&M Records co-founder Jerry Moss.

They were 18th through the early stages of the race. Giacomo was behind a wall of horses entering the upper stretch before Smith angled him outside to find racing room. Giacomo closed strongly in the final 70 yards to win by a half-length. He paid $102.60 as the fourth-biggest long shot winner in Derby history.

“We were really going into the Derby that year under the radar. He hadn’t won any major preps but he had been running really well,” Smith recalled. “I thought we had a big, big chance if I could get him to finish like I knew he could. Not only did he do that, he even did a little better than I thought he could.”

Smith won the Derby again in 2018 aboard favored Justify, who went on to win the Triple Crown.

“He took me for the ride of my life,” the jockey said. “Made a lot of dreams come true.”


His first Derby winner was a surprise. Although I'll Have Another had won the Santa Anita Derby, the colt wasn't being talked up as a Derby contender. He won by 1 1/2 lengths.

Nyquist came into the 2016 Derby undefeated and was the betting favorite. He won by 1 1/4 lengths.

"When you tell people you’re in the business, they always say, ‘Have you ever won a Kentucky Derby?’ thinking you’re going to say no,” O’Neill said. “To be able to say yes and to have done it twice is pretty special.”


The Hall of Fame rider is one of eight jockeys to win the Kentucky Derby three times.

His first win came in 2002 with 20-1 shot War Emblem, a speedy frontrunner trained by Bob Baffert.

“I made a lot of people happy, and money, too,” the jockey said.

Espinoza won again in 2014 with California Chrome, a modestly bred colt owned and trained by equally humble connections. Art Sherman became the oldest winning trainer at age 77.

“It's not easy to win one. It's harder to win two and three,” Espinoza said.

Espinoza is one of six jockeys to win back-to-back Derbies. He rode American Pharoah to victory in 2015. The colt trained by Baffert went on to win the Triple Crown.

“You can win many, many races all over the world," Espinoza said, “but there's nothing like winning the Kentucky Derby.”


AP horse racing: