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A Kentucky Derby Dominated By Latin American, Caribbean Immigrants

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Jockey Victor Espinoza begins to celebrate after guiding California Chrome to victoryin the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. (Morry Gash / Associated Press / May 3, 2014)

News Americas, Louisville, Kentucky, Sat. May. 3, 2014:  While the battle for immigration reform in the United States continues, there was no denying the domination by Latin American and Caribbean immigrant jockeys of the 140th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday, May 3, 2014.

Mexican-born jockey Victor Espinoza, 41, made history by winning his second Derby, this time with the California bred favorite, California Chrome, the first California bred to win the Derby since 1962.

His owners, Steve Coburn and Perry Martin met when they partnered to buy California Chrome’s mother, Maryland-bred Love the Chase, for $8,000. They spent another $2,000 to pair her with an undistinguished stallion named Lucky Pulpit and along came California Chrome.

His win Saturday by 1 3/4 lengths now has many asking can he win the Triple Crown. The last Triple Crown winner was Affirmed in 1978.

Espinoza began riding in his native Mexico and earned his first win there in 1992 before moving the following year to compete at racetracks in California.

Since coming to the United States, Espinoza has developed into one of the country’s top jockeys. In 2000, was his big break when he won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff aboard Spain and in 2002 captured both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes with War Emblem.

He won his 3,000th career race, aboard Flashy Delight, on May 31st, 2013, at Betfair Hollywood Park in Inglewood, California.

California Chrome and Espinoza move on to the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore and the Belmont Stakes in New York to answer the burning question on everyone’s mind – can they do it three times in a row?

The answer will be known in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, the Derby was dominated by other immigrant riders on Saturday.

Another Mexican, four Puerto Ricans, two Jamaican-born jockeys, two Panamanians, a Dominican, and a Venezuelan all competed in the Kentucky Derby Saturday.

Jamaicans Place Second And Fourth

Jamaican-jockey-Shaun Bridgmohan

Jamaican jockey Shaun Bridgmohan was second with Commanding Curve.

Shaun Bridgmohan and Rajiv Maragh were both born in Jamaica. Bridgmohan placed second with  Commanding Curve  while Maragh on another highly favored horse, Wicked Strong, took the fourth spot.

Bridgmohan was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica, At age thirteen, Bridgmohan’s family emigrated to the United States, settling in South Florida where he developed an interest in horse racing. Before becoming a jockey, and while still in school, he worked at a Florida racetrack as a hot walker, groom, and as an exercise rider. After graduating from high school he pursued a riding career and in August 1997 earned his first win at Calder Race Course.

Six months later on February 15, 1998 he won six races on a single card at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, New York, finishing 1998, which was his breakout year, as the winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey. On December 22, 2007 he again won six races on a single card, this time at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, Louisiana. On Saturday he just missed the top spot.

Commanding Curve furious late rally in the stretch Saturday fell 1 3/4 lengths short of California Chrome.

Bridgmohan said he was farther back than he wanted, “but that’s how he runs. Midway down the backside, he started picking at them. Top of the stretch, I kicked him to the outside. I’m telling you, he really finishes nice. His future is ahead of him.”

Marajh was born in Jamaica to a jockey who rode there before relocating to Florida where he began a career as a horse trainer.

Rajiv Maragh rode his first winner at Tampa Bay Downs on February 1, 2004. He got his big break in 2008 when he was 14th in the national earnings list. Rapidly developing into a top jockey since moving north to compete at NYRA tracks, in 2009 he has been a winner of several Grade 1 races.

He rode Mucho Macho Man to a 3rd place finish at the 2011 Kentucky Derby. He rode his first Breeder’s Cup winner on Caleb’s Posse in the dirt mile. Maragh is the jockey who took 3rd in the Kentucky Derby back in 2011, while riding Mucho Macho Man.  He is Ranked 12th in earning for 2014 with $3,137,771 and 70th in wins with 41.

Puerto Rican brothers José and Irad Ortiz Jr.  both raced against each other in the 140th Derby.   The two rising stars are based in New York and made their Derby debuts on top of Samraat and Uncle Sigh, respectively.

Both attended jockey school in Puerto Rico and cite Angel Cordero Jr. and John Velazquez, a pair of Hall of Fame riders from the island, as idols and mentors.

Also riding from Puerto Rico Saturday were John R. Velazquez on Intense Holiday as well as Jeffrey Sanchez on Pablo Del Monte.

Javier Castellano, a Venezuelan, who began his riding career in La Rinconada and Santa Rita racetracks in  the South American nation rode We Miss Artie, Saturday.

Joel Rosario also raced in Saturday’s Derby atop General A Rod. He is a Dominican jockey who in the space of five weeks in 2013 rode the winners of the Dubai World Cup and the Kentucky Derby. On March, 30, 2013 Rosario won the world’s richest horse race, the USD10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, aboard the US-based stallion Animal Kingdom. And on May 4, 2013 he won the Kentucky Derby aboard the colt Orb. On June 20, 2013 Rosario won the Norfolk Stakes aboard No Nay Never at Royal Ascot, and broke the 5 furlong track record for two-year-olds.

Panama’s Luis Saez competed atop Wildcat Red while fellow Panamian Ricardo Santana rode Tapiture to the finish.

Noted Mexican jockey Martin Garcia had the reins on Chitu.