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Espinoza progressing toward return, now targeting mid-January

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

Benoit Photo
Victor Espinoza stands between the actors Luke (left) and Owen Wilson during the trophy presentation for the Hollywood Derby on Saturday at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Victor Espinoza, the Hall of Fame jockey who has been sidelined since a morning training accident more than four months ago, on Saturday at Del Mar said he was making excellent progress and hoped to return to action by mid-January.

“I’m getting there, almost there,” said Espinoza, who was visiting the track for the first time since the accident on July 22, an indication of how well he is doing.

Espinoza said he is back running in the neighborhood near his home east of Del Mar, where he has remained since the accident. He said he is going to the gym regularly to lift weights, and said he wants to continue to progress in terms of the strength in his arms before getting back on horses.

“I’m almost there. I should be good. A few more weeks. I should be good to go in mid-January,” Espinoza said.

Espinoza has maintained since the injury that he wanted to get healthy first, then worry about getting back to action. In line with that, he said he is not rushing himself to be ready for the opening of Santa Anita’s main winter meeting on Dec. 26. He wants to come back when he’s ready, and figures another six weeks should be just about right.

Espinoza was injured when working the stakes-winning sprinter Bobby Abu Dhabi, who suffered fatal injuries and threw Espinoza hard to the ground.

He was hospitalized initially in La Jolla, then was transferred to an in-patient rehabilitation facility in Encinitas, before continuing with outpatient rehab. Espinoza initially had to wear a neck brace. Much of the rehab was owing to nerve damage that prevented him from fully raising his arms, but Espinoza was eager to raise his arms above his head on Saturday to illustrate how far he has progressed.

Espinoza, 46, has won 3,358 races, including three Kentucky Derbies. He is best known for winning the Triple Crown on American Pharoah, as well as being the regular rider of two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome.

Espinoza on Saturday helped present the trophy after the Hollywood Derby, a race he won on California Chrome in 2014.

Fans were delighted to see him. He was greeted warmly while going to and from the winner’s circle on Saturday. His face lit up. Both physically and mentally, he’s headed in the right direction.

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Photo Credits:   Vassar Photography (Northern CA)  |  Benoit Photo (Southern CA)  |  Michael J. Marten (Southern CA)

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