Justique won her debut with an eye-catching last-to-first move under Victor Espinoza
Who didn’t enjoy Victor Espinoza’s journey with American Pharoah or his unbelievable run on California Chrome? Most casual observers didn’t pick up on their stories until after they had won a key 2-year old race, or even later, after they made their mark on the Derby trail.
Espinoza will tell you the road to his Triple Crown, as was the case with American Pharoah or his Kentucky Derby win on California Chrome, started long before the two superstar colts ever got out on the racetrack.
“That’s my goals in life,” the Hall of Fame rider says, “find the right babies. It seems like there are quite a few I’ve been working.”
He has several lined up for the Del Mar meet and one he helped debut last Sunday. C R K Stable’s Justique went last-to-first to break her maiden and afterwards drew comparisons to the great Zenyatta. Both Justique and Zenyatta were conditioned by John Shirreffs.
That’s what Espinoza does in the mornings. He’s like a scout on the backside, searching for that diamond in the rough, visiting trainers like Shirreffs or Michael McCarthy, inquiring about their promising 2-year olds and offering to lend his years of experience aboard the first-time starters.
“I’m really looking forward to having a good meet with those,” Espinoza said. “Those are the future, the babies…the 2-year olds, they are the future. You start early with the 2-year olds, start working and looking toward to the future. That’s how it’s been my entire career.”
It worked in 2013 when Victor climbed aboard a little known Lucky Pulpit colt in the King Glorious Stakes at Hollywood Park. Six months later California Chrome had won six straight including the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
Fast forward a couple of months to September of 2014 and there’s Espinoza aboard another promising young 2-year old, winning the Del Mar Futurity. American Pharoah and Victor Espinoza strung together eight straight victories over the next 11 months including the first Triple Crown in 37 years.
Now Espinoza is sitting on a live one. Justique is a daughter of Triple Crown winner Justify out of the Bernardini mare, Grazie Mille. Bred by John D. Gunther and Eurowest Bloodstock, Justique was purchased for CRK Stable for $725,000 by Mayberry Farm from Glennwood Farm at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale
“She ran like a pro,” Espinoza said. “Not too many 2-year olds do that. I was so proud of her…the way she ran.”
Entering week three of the Del Mar summer meet, Espinoza has three wins and two seconds out of 19 starts and sits eighth in the jockey standings.