- Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza, who won the Triple Crown on American Pharoah, follows a strict diet and training regimen.
- Espinoza eats mostly everything, but only eats one meal per day and has small portions.
- Espinoza does the same training routine five days a week – a three-mile run up and down a hill, low-weight, high-rep weight training, and a swim.
Victor Espinoza knows what it takes to be one of the top jockeys in the world.
Espinoza was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017 as one of 12 jockeys to win the Triple Crown, accomplishing the feat in 2015 with American Pharoah.
Espinoza became the oldest jockey to win the Triple Crown, a testament to his hard work and determination. And make no mistake, Espinoza says being a jockey is not easy.
“Life of a jockey is not easy, let me tell you,” Espinoza told Business Insider in the lead-up to Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. “It’s difficult. If you want to be a good one and you want to be a champion … [the] life of a jockey is intense, mentally and physically.”
Jockeys are notoriously strict with their diets and training, having to be light enough not to weigh down their horses, but strong and fit enough to withstand the rigors of races and control the horses. Espinoza credits his success to his intense work ethic.
“I can speak for myself – I don’t have much life for many, many years,” Espinoza said. “Because I wanna be the best. And to be the best, I must train the best.”
Espinoza – who is listed as 5-foot-2 – typically tries to ride at 113 pounds. He adds another three pounds on for the saddle and equipment that goes on the horse. His diet doesn’t include many restrictions – he eats mostly everything – but he only eats one meal per day to stay lean. He also keeps his portions smaller than usual.
“I don’t even know how I maintain myself for all these years,” he said. “Get used to it. I train really hard all day long pretty much. I ride, and I don’t get hungry, and I don’t even think about food until after I ride, probably around 6-7 in the afternoon. That is when I get really hungry.”
He drinks mostly water, with the occasional soda, and stays away from alcohol, though mainly because he doesn’t enjoy it.
Espinoza also said his workouts are “tricky” – he has to stay lean, but strong.
Espinoza runs the same hill five days per week, going three miles up and three miles down. After about an hour of rest, he goes to the gym where he focuses on low-weight, high-rep weight training. Afterward, he’ll hit the pool for swimming workouts, which he says helps strength but keeps his muscles from getting too tight.
The build-up to races varies, too. For instance, in the month leading up to the Kentucky Derby, Espinoza will almost double his training to prepare. However, two or three days before the race, he’ll stop, doing only light exercises or stretching to stay ready. He doesn’t fast or change his diet before races.
Leg training is particularly specific for Espinoza. Jockeys ride in a squatting position to try and lessen the load on the horses. Espinoza’s legs have to be strong enough to support him in that position for the duration of the race, but he said he couldn’t work out his legs too much or the added muscle can make his legs too stiff.
Espinoza is set to ride in the Derby on Saturday, racing on Bolt d’Oro, which has the fourth-best odds in the race. If Espinoza can win for the fourth time at Churchill Downs, it will be because of his hard work.
“The only way I succeed and the only way I win so many races because I feel like I’m pretty much [a] slave in my job,” Espinoza said. “But if it’s not that, then… I don’t think I will be the best.”