American Pharoah

(P1) Life after the TRIPLE CROWN will never be the same for JOCKEY Victor Espinoza, who just became the first rider in 37 years to take the top HONOR in horse racing.

(P2) After moving to the United States from his native Mexico 25 years ago with NEXT TO NOTHING, Espinoza WORKED HIS WAY UP to the HIGHEST-PROFILE rider in America after guiding racehorse American Pharoah to the WINNER’S CIRCLE in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.

(P3) The Sierra Madre resident is the first Latino jockey to CONQUER the Triple Crown — and at 43, he is also the oldest.

(P4) “I was not even ready for this,” Espinoza said from the GRANDSTANDS at Santa Anita Monday. “Everything has changed after winning the Triple Crown. When I lost the last couple of times, I really had to make plans for my future, but after I win, everything is just COMING ALONG well. I’m still feeling the high, the excitement. I cannot believe I just won the Triple Crown. It’s amazing how many people have been so close … and here I am.”

(P5) Breeder’s Cup SPOKESMAN Jim Gluckson said he was impressed at the ADVERSITY Espinoza OVERCAME to ACCOMPLISH this historic MILESTONE.

(P6) “Winning the Triple Crown is one of the great achievements in sports in that it is only being done for a 12th time,” said Gluckson, who is approaching his 30th year with the VENERABLE racing series. “What makes it special for Victor is he had two other chances at it — in 2002 with War Emblem, and again last year with California Chrome. It’s really a TESTAMENT to his PERSEVERANCE that he HUNG IN THERE, and he got on the right horse.”

(P7) But it’s been a ROCKY ROAD for Espinoza, who grew up on a farm outside Mexico City, where he drove a bus at age 17 to pay his way through jockey school.

(P8) “When I started, it was all about surviving,” he said. “I didn’t think about a Triple Crown or Kentucky Derby win. For me, I just wanted to win one race. I could not jump from the bottom to the top so I just took it step by step. Just win one race at a time.”

(P9) He moved to Northern California in 1992 to compete at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields, where he MADE A NAME FOR HIMSELF.

(P10) Veteran trainer Steve Specht, who worked with Espinoza in the early days of his racing career at Golden Gate Fields, said the jockey has been DETERMINED to win from day one.

(P11) “He was just a hardworking kid who was out there every day,” Specht said. “When he got here, he basically had nothing. He was living here at the track. But he kept getting better and better, and soon people started seeing the talent he had.”

(P12) Specht said when he first started working with Espinoza, the horseman couldn’t speak a word of English. “He would look at me and nod, and I would walk away wondering if he understood anything I had just said. But he was a good rider, so he really didn’t need much instruction. Victor’s earned everything he’s got, and he’s done it by himself — by his hard WORK ETHIC and his ability.”

(P13) Espinoza moved down to Southern California in the mid-90s and has been based at Santa Anita Park ever since.

(P14) Even with his continued success, he hardly ever takes a day off. “I dedicate myself 100 percent, no matter what,” he said. “My life has been at the track more than anywhere else. I go home to sleep, and that’s it. Then I’m back at the track.”

(P15) Although he’s not a SUPERSTITIOUS guy, there are two CONSTANTS for Espinoza on a big race day: prayer and sleep.

(P16) “I like to sleep — a lot,” he said with a laugh. “The only thing is, I’m a really religious guy, and I always pray. I pray for safety and also for health. Those are the most important.”

(P17) While he rode his horse to GLORY in each leg of the Triple Crown, Espinoza credits American Pharoah with being the true CHAMPION. He said it lies in the EFFORTLESS way the colt NAVIGATES the track.

(P18) “That’s why he’s better than all of them,” Espinoza said. “It’s because he’s so light on his feet that he does things easy compared to other horses. When they run, they run hard, and he just floats. It’s as if you’re swimming on top of the water.”

(P19) The jockey hasn’t had a moment of DOWNTIME since capturing the Triple Crown 10 days ago, but when he does, he hopes to escape to his second home in Del Mar, where he will begin SCOPING OUT his next champion 2-year-old.

(P20) Del Mar is where he first rode American Pharoah and where he was first APPROACHED by trainer Art Sherman to ride California Chrome, the 2014 Triple Crown CONTENDER that FELL SHORT in the third leg at Belmont Park after getting a bad start out of the gate.

(P21) “I always have goals in life. I never have dreams because dreams sometimes don’t come true. But goals — I always pretty much get them done,” he said. “My next goal is to start strong and look for a horse for next year.”

(P22) Espinoza returns to work Thursday, the same day American Pharoah comes home for some much needed rest and relaxation.

(P23) As for trainer Bob Baffert’s goal, it’s to get American Pharoah to the Breeder’s Cup in October.

WORDS: 941



If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. What is your favorite kind of racing – running, swimming, automobile, bicycle, horse, or some other kind?
  3. What physical characteristics would a jockey need to have?
  4. Horse racing is one of the most popular BETTING sports. Is betting on sports events allowed in your country?
  5. Why was American Pharoah the first horse in 37 years to win the Triple Crown?


What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Next to nothing
  • Work your way up
  • High profile
  • Come along
  • Hang in there
  • Rocky road
  • Make a name for yourself
  • Work ethic
  • Scope out
  • Fall short



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