Horse Racing / Sports

Author Nora Roberts appears on the red carpet at the before the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Saturday, May, 3, 2014. (Amy Wallot/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT)

It's more than a race to Victor Espinoza

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The aftermath of California Chrome's stirring victory should have brought nothing but joy to the pilot of the ship, jockey Victor Espinoza.

He had, after all, won his second Kentucky Derby. His first was aboard War Emblem in 2002.

He also had another shot at the Triple Crown, something that eluded him at the Belmont in 2002, when War Emblem stumbled coming out of the gate and finished out of the money.

But, while Espinoza was thrilled with his ride on California Chrome and excited about the days ahead, he uncharacteristically changed the subject to what this victory really meant to him.

He said he had visited the children's cancer ward at City of Hope Hospital in Duarte and had been so moved by the state of some of the patients that he had pledged 10 percent of his income to them.

"It changed my life to see those kids," he said. "They don't know what life is about. I hope I make a change for this Kentucky Derby win to have more earnings for the kids that have cancer, and the City of Hope."

Wise guys

Wise Dan, a 7-year-old gelding who remains one of the best thoroughbreds of his generation, overcame early bumping and won the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic.

The race went off as the one before the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby, but trainer Charlie LoPresti, jockey John Velazquez and the rest of the horse's connections had plenty of time to celebrate and soak in the limelight, because the Derby didn't go off until more than an hour and a half later.

Seek Again battled Wise Dan down the stretch and lost the battle by a head, to a veteran who has now won 21 times in 29 starts.

Wise Dan's $300,000-plus portion of the purse has him approaching $7 million in career earnings. He has won Eclipse awards as horse of the year, older male and champion turf horse in 2012 and 2013.

What's next?

Trainer Steve Asmussen, whose Untapable won Friday's $1-million Kentucky Oaks, remained noncommittal Saturday morning about whether he would send his filly to compete with the boys in the May 17 Preakness at Pimlico in Baltimore.

Asmussen trained the filly Rachel Alexandra to her Preakness victory in 2009.

He had a Derby entrant, longshot Tapiture, who would also be a Preakness candidate, and Asmussen said, prior to the running of the Derby, "It would be a very wise decision for us to keep them apart."

After Tapiture finished 15th, the prospects of a filly in the Preakness seemed to increase.

Etc.

There was a scary three-horse spill in the third race of the day at Churchill Downs, but horses and riders survived.

Two horses clipped heels, causing another to fall and sending three jockeys to the ground. Megan Fadlovich and Marcelino Pedroza were examined at a hospital. Fadlovich was reported to have concussion symptoms and Pedroza lower back pain. James Graham was OK and walked back to the jockey room.

The three horses, Swift Humor, Grand Slam Kid and Ranger Regiment, walked back to the barn.

(c)2014 Los Angeles Times

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