Samy Camacho Rides King Guillermo to Victory at the Tampa Bay Derby

Samy Camacho has a royal weekend…

The Venezuelan jockey raced King Guillermo to victory at the Tampa Bay Derby by 4 3/4 lengths on Saturday for owner Victor Martinez, a five-time All-Star in Major League Baseball. The prize: $351,000.

Samy Camacho

Camacho’s 3-year-old colt earned 50 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. However, King Guillermo isn’t nominated to the Triple Crownseries, so Martinez would need to pay $6,000 by March 30 to get him in the Derby.

Martinez races as Victoria’s Ranch, a 2,400-acre cattle operation he founded in Florida after retiring from a 16-year baseball career in 2018. He paid $150,000 for King Guillermo, who won his first stakes race on Saturday.

Sent off at 49-1 odds, King Guillermo paid $100.40, $38.20 and $17.80. He has two wins in four career starts and earnings of $240,350.

Ridden by Camacho, King Guillermo ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.63.

Sole Volantewas second, and Texas Swingtook third.

Espinoza Leads American Pharoah to Victory in First Post-Triple Crown Race

Victor Espinoza continues his winning ways…

The 43-year-old Mexican jockey, who was named Best Jockey at this year’s ESPY Awards, gave American Pharoah a slight nudge to take control and lead the majestic colt to victory at the Haskell Invitational, delivering an encore performance in his first race since winning the Triple Crown.

Victor Espinoza

“This horse, he just keeps bringing it,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He’s just a great horse.”

With a record crowd of 60,983 cheering him on Sunday at Monmouth Park, American Pharoah came out of the final turn with a clear lead and cruised to a 2¼-length victory while Espinoza barely moved a muscle.

“He ran like a champ,” Espinoza said.

After winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes to become the 12th Triple Crown winner and first in 37 years, American Pharoah’s return was greatly anticipated.

Fifty-seven days after the Belmont, the 3-year-old son of Pioneer of the Nile looked better than ever in his eighth consecutive victory.

“That was nerve-racking,” Baffert said after his eighth win in the Haskell, five more than any other trainer. “I was getting pretty nervous.”

“No clue,” owner Ahmed Zayat said when asked about his colt’s next race. “We’re going to enjoy this moment.”

If all goes according to plan, American Pharoah will run his final race in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, on October 31. Then he’s headed down the road to the breeding shed at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud.

A few minutes after Bruce Springsteen‘s “Born to Run” blared over the speakers as the horses walked onto the track, American Pharoah broke well from post No. 4. But it was Competitive Edge who took the lead. Espinoza kept his horse in second until the far turn. And then, American Pharoah took off and was all alone in the stretch.

The final margin was deceptive because Espinoza never asked American Pharoah to run any harder than necessary.

“It was pretty easy,” said Espinoza, who is unbeaten in eight races as American Pharoah’s jockey. “For me the key was just coming out of there running. I knew that other horse would want to take the lead, so I sat back just a little bit. I never like to go head and head with another horse, so I sat back maybe half a length behind. He did everything by himself. It was pretty easy, pretty impressive.”

American Pharoah followed many of his Triple Crown colleagues by winning his first start after three grueling races in five weeks. Of the 11 others, seven won in their return and one, Count Fleet, was retired after the 1943 Belmont with an injury.

American Pharoah opened his career with a loss before reeling off eight in a row — seven of them Grade 1 races. With the $1.1 million payday in the Haskell, his career earnings soared to $5.6 million.

Espinoza Rides American Pharoah to Triple Crown Greatness

Victor Espinoza has jockeyed his way into the history books…

American Pharoah, with the 43-year-old Mexican jockey at the reins, won the Belmont Stakes, becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years.

Victor Espinoza
Affirmed had been the last horse to win the Triple Crown, taking the most coveted prize in horse racing in 1978.

American Pharoah lived up to expectations on Saturday, pulling away from its challengers in the last stretch of the 147th Belmont Stakes and becoming just the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown.

“It’s very emotional,” American Pharoah’s trainer, Bob Baffert, said. “What a feeling. It’s probably going to take a few days to sink in.”

The horse, which is owned by Zayat Stables, won the Kentucky Derby on May 2 and the Preakness Stakes two weeks later, taking the first two legs of the Triple Crown.

Baffert and Espinoza had come up short in five previous bids between them to win the Triple Crown.

“He walked into the gate amazing,” Espinoza said. “He was ready today. As soon as I sat in the saddle, there was so much power and so much energy this horse had. He trained perfect, just unbelievable coming into the race.”

American Pharoah ended the longest streak without a Triple Crown winner in the history of American horse racing, with 13 horses losing in the Belmont Stakes after winning the first two races in the series.

The previous longest stretch without a Triple Crown winner was 25 years, spanning the time from Citation’s victory in 1948 to Secretariat’s win in 1973.

“It’s just an amazing thing. It’s just unbelievable how things work out. It’s just an amazing horse like American Pharoah. I was coming to this race with so much confidence the last two times. It’s just unbelievable,” Espinoza said.

Espinoza won the first two legs of the Triple Crown with War Emblem in 2002 and California Chrome last year, but he came up short each time at Belmont.

Triple Crown Winner Cabrera Earns ESPY Award for Best MLB Player

He may have lost the ESPY for Best Male Athlete to the Miami Heat’s LeBron James. But Miguel Cabrera didn’t come empty-handed.

The  30-year-old Venezuelan baseball star, a third baseman for the Detroit Tigers, was named for Best MLB Player at the 21st ESPY Awards show on Wednesday night in Los Angeles.

Miguel Cabrera

Cabrera earned the award after becoming the first Triple Crown winner (.330 average, 44 home runs, 139 RBIs) since 1967 and winning the American League MVP title.

Meanwhile, Joel Rosario was named the year’s Best Jockey. The 28-year-old American Thoroughbred horse racing jockey won the award after riding the colt Orb to a win at the Kentucky Derby.

Rosario also won the world’s richest horse race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai in March, aboard the US-based stallion Animal Kingdom.

ESPY Award is short for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award.

Fan voting, conducted online, was based on performances spanning the past 12 months.

The awards show, which celebrates the year’s best athletes and moments in sports, was hosted by Mad Men star Jon Hamm.

Messi Named Best International Athlete at ESPY Awards

The people have spoken… And, they’ve named Lionel Messi the best of the best…

The 25-year-old Argentine fútbol star—who claimed his third straight Ballon d’Or in January—was named Best International Athlete during Wednesday night’s ESPY Awards, which celebrate the year’s best athletes and moments in sports.

lionel-messi-barca

Messi, who plays for Futbol Club Barcelona in Spain’s La Liga, beat out some of the world’s biggest sports stars for the title, including tennis superstar Novak Djokovic, LPGA Championship winner Yani Tseng and his Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.

During his record-breaking season, Messi scored 50 goals in La Liga and an unmatched 73 goals in all competitions. He also finished as the UEFA Champions League‘s top scorer for a fourth consecutive season with 14 goals.

But Messi wasn’t the only Latino athlete recognized…

Mario Gutierrez, who rode I’ll Have Another to victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, won as best jockey.

The 25-year-old Mexican jockey beat out Javier Castellano, Ramon Dominguez
 and John Velazquez for the trophy.

Award winners are selected exclusively through online fan voting from the list of candidates selected by the ESPY Select Nominating Committee.

Velazquez Rides Union Rags to Victory at Belmont Stakes

The first time’s the charm for John Velazquez

Riding Union Rags for the first time, the 40-year-old Puerto Rican jockey led the 3-year-old colt to victory at Saturday’s 144th Belmont Stakes.

John Velzquez & Union Rags

Union Rags determinedly budged through a narrow opening on front-running Paynter‘s left flank with eight strides to go and snatched a dramatic neck victory in the Triple Crown finale in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 85,811 showed up at Belmont Park.

“I waited for a hole to open up, and I got lucky,” said Velazquez. “The horse did it all. … If it happens, it’s brilliant. If it doesn’t happen, you’re a bum, basically.”

John Velzquez & Union Rags

Velazquez set up the move by putting Union Rags in Paynter jockey Mike Smith‘s blind spot. But he still could only hope that Paynter would move ever so slightly off the rail. With Atigun making a run on the outside, Smith switched to his left-hand stick — and Velazquez seized the opportunity.

“I said this could be my chance,” he said. “… At first the hole was pretty tight.”

Smith said he didn’t see Velazquez until too late.

“I could have tried to make a difference, but you don’t want to let the stewards (decide) the outcome of a race like this,” he said. “If I tried to do anything, I was going to put him in harm, and I certainly didn’t want to do that, either.”

John Velzquez & Union Rags
“I thought he rode a brilliant race,” Union Rags’ trainer Michael Matz  said of Velazquez. “Whether he got up there or wouldn’t, he still rode a great race. … He’s a strong rider, he knows Belmont, and those were some of the things that went into picking John.”

Velazquez, who will be inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in August, now has won three Triple Crown races, and all came after rider changes. He won the 2007 Belmont with Kentucky Oaks winner Rags to Riches, after jockey Garrett Gomez had a prior commitment for the race. He won last year’s Kentucky Derby on Animal Kingdom after Robby Albarado was kicked in the face by a horse.