His wild Triple Crown ride over, Victor Espinoza will have a lifetime of memories to savor: Winning the Santa Anita Derby, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and a near-miss in the Belmont Stakes with California Chrome. One of the 42-year-old jockey's memories not related to the Triple Crown will be riding for the first time at Royal Ascot in England on June 17, and a chance meeting with Queen Elizabeth.
"I was coming out of the jockeys' room and I heard this voice, 'Victor,' " Espinoza said. "I said, ‘Yeah, what's up?' and then I looked and oh my God, it was the Queen! She called me by name, Victor.
"I talked to her a couple times, actually. We had a long conversation on Thursday of the week I was there, but then I had to leave because I had to get on my horse. I don't exactly remember what I said, but we were having fun. She asked me if I liked it there, if I liked the track, the city. She asked me more questions than I asked her, and I said, 'Yeah, it's pretty nice.' I wanted to ask her more questions but I didn't have enough time because she kept asking me too many questions.
"The entire experience, the Triple Crown, Royal Ascot, has been really fun. Knowing our plan for the Triple Crown was set early on made this much more enjoyable than in 2002, when I won the Derby and Preakness with War Emblem. That all came about like a surprise, quick, sort of last-minute.
"When you have a horse like California Chrome and the agenda is in place, it was more fun for me. The most exciting thing was winning the Kentucky Derby. There was more pressure for me in that race. After that, it was all a bonus."
Espinoza is one of four jockeys nominated for an ESPY Award. The winners will be announced on ESPN at 9 p.m. (EDT) July 16 at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. Other finalists are Javier Castellano, Joel Rosario and Mike Smith.