‘This thing is no joke’ – Victor Espinoza opens up about catching coronavirus

Horse Racing Victor Espinoza jockey
Victor Espinoza: Hall of Fame jockey recovering from coronavirus. Photo: Benoit

By Jon Lees

USA: Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza has opened up about his experience of coronavirus, believing he contracted it at Los Alamitos and admitting: “I let my guard down.”

Espinoza landed the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes on American Pharoah in 2015. He is among a host of big-name US riders to contract the virus, which has swept through the southern Californian jockey colony, resulting in the cancellation of this weekend’s Del Mar meet.

While some have been asymptomatic, 48-year-old Espinoza said he has never felt any pain like it “I don’t want nobody to have this disease,” he said. “It’s pretty bad.”

Espinoza tested positive after riding at the Los Alamitos Derby meeting on July 4-5, joining a list that also includes Flavien Prat, Umberto Rispoli, Luis Saez and Martin Garcia. 

Describing his experience on the Winners Circle ABR Podcast, the jockey said: “I survive so far. It’s been already ten days, but the first couple of days it was pretty bad.

“My body, my joints, pretty much everything hurts. I don’t have a headache, it’s just sometimes I get a little pressure, but that pressure is like nothing I have ever felt before. This thing is no joke.

“On Tuesday it hit me pretty hard for two hours,” Espinoza went on. “The next day I woke up normal, like nothing happened. Then the following day my body started hurting, every joint, especially my legs all the way from my hip to the ankle. The worst thing is there is not much they can do.”

Espinoza, who has also won the Kentucky Derby on War Emblem and California Chrome, said he had been advised to rest at home and was beginning to feel much better. He added that he was fortunate to not have had any breathing difficulties, a cough or temperature which would have required more urgent treatment.

Until he went to Los Alamitos, the jockey said he had been taking extra precautions to avoid catching the disease.

“I have been in quarantine since March, I never went out anywhere,” he said. “I was just so careful to take care of myself – but one second I let my guard down when I went to Los Alamitos and that was it.

“I was there Saturday, and Sunday, I started to feel tired in the afternoon and by Monday it hit me and Tuesday was the worst.”

Explaining what happened at the race meeting, he continued: “I got to Los Alamitos late and there are a couple of jockeys from out of town, like Martin Garcia and Saez. I was almost close to Martin Garcia’s corner and a couple of valets, who are positive now. But then we don’t know.

“When I say I let my guard down, I was not even going to take a shower but somehow they convinced me the showers were okay. So I went to the shower room and when I came back to my locker Martin Garcia was there and his valets. 

“They were packing their stuff right next tp me and I don’t have my mask on after getting out of the shower so I believe it was the couple of seconds I don’t have my mask on was how I got it.”

He added: “I don’t want to say that it was Martin. We were all together. We share the room with the quarter-horse jockeys. It’s pretty narrow. There is no exhalation in there. Even if you are not very close to them, you could still get infected.”

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