LOUISVILLE — Amid the joy of his second Kentucky Derby victory, 41-year-old jockey Victor Espinoza broke down in tears as he spoke about his commitment to kids with cancer.
"It makes me cry to see all the kids that can't even have a life like we have," said the native of Mexico, who rode California Chrome to victory Saturday and matched the Derby title he won in 2002 on War Emblem.
He recalled his visit to City of Hope, a cancer research/treatment center in Los Angeles.
"All the kids, they have cancer. … Since that time, I donated 10 percent of my earnings for all the kids that have cancer. … It changed my life to see those kids like seven, eight, 10 years old, 20 years old. … I hope today what earnings I have I (can) make a change to one of those kids," said Espinoza.
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California Chrome took command down the stretch and ran away with the race. One question going in was how he would handle coming out of the gate in the crowded 19-horse field.
"A lot of things go through my mind before the race. Break out of the gate. It's not easy.," said Espinoza.
California Chrome got a good break.
Espinoza said he saw one horse inside of him and one outside trying to take the lead.
"At that point, I make a decision just to ease back a little bit," he said.
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For a while, he worried about getting trapped. "My heart started doing like a hundred miles an hour," he said. "I didn't want him trapped. I wanted him to run his race."
Mission accomplished. At the first turn, California Chrome was just off the front-runners.
"I was like, 'What a relief. I can breathe, relax, let him stretch his legs,' '' said Espinoza. "I think that wins the race there."
Espinoza said it was more exciting than his first Derby win.
"Last one, I was young. I was kind of shocked. … I never thought in a million years I was going to win that," he said.
"This one, after the Santa Anita Derby (California Chrome romped by 5 1/4 lengths) … I was really, really excited and looking forward for this horse. If everything was going well, then I can have my second Derby. It's just amazing."
PHOTOS: SATURDAY AT THE KENTUCKY DERBY