Throughout the history of American turf, Arlington International Racecourse has been a heralded hotbed for rising jockey stardom. Laffit Pincay, Jr., started his U.S. career at Arlington in 1966 (winning the title in 1967), while the budding Hall of Fame careers of Pat Day, Jerry Bailey and Randy Romero laid their respective foundations here. Needless to say, when a fledgling jockey starts making local waves, the Windy City takes notice of the tide.
Trainers like Chris Dorris, for whom he won his first race (via disqualification aboard the cleverly named Everybody Lies), and Mike Reavis, for whom his family has worked for several years, Esquivel has exceled and remained very humble.
“I really want to thank everybody for helping me out and being there for me,” said Esquivel. “I’ve been here all my life. A lot of trainers know me and have put me on in the mornings. I think they ride me because I just try to work hard and get better.”
“Trainers can always get upset if you lose a race, but you have to show up every day and keep working. I know I’m a bug-boy, but people are helping me improve every day,” he continued. Receiving an apprentice break of 7 lbs., he is 12 wins away from a losing another allowance. “I’m excited to lose the 2 lbs. I feel great about my weight.”
Pertaining to his ability to rate horses he said, “I really like taking hold of a horse and coming from behind. I like to see how the field is working and what is happening while I get my horse to relax.”
Such a capacity will become an asset when Esquivel tackles turf for the first time on Arlington’s world-class course. “I’m really excited. I'm ready for it and ready to learn from every race.”
He also likes to keep his meet goals simple. “I really just want to do good there and win a lot of races. I want to get to know more people, ride better horses, and hopefully one day get to ride in the big races. I would love to ride for as many people as I can, including other great trainers like Stidham and Catalano,” he continued. “Everybody has the dream of winning Grade I races. I would love to one day have a chance to ride a horse in the Kentucky Derby.”
When asked if he had any picks, or which colt he hypothetically would love to be riding, in next Saturday’s big race, he very sensibly focused on the task at hand, “I haven’t really looked at the field. I’m just really excited about the horses I’m riding. It’s everyone’s dream to ride and win the Derby. It’s just hard to say which one will win.”
That same constitution spills over into his response when asked if he has any jockey idols. “I don’t really have a guy I wish I could be like. I think you learn from different jockeys. Here we have a lot of good jockeys and I learn something from each one. I think you can make really good combinations learning from different ones. That works a lot better than just sticking to one.”
Perhaps his pragmatic and mature mindset comes from being a family man. “In my free time I stay home with my wife and daughter. I don’t spend as much time as I wish I could with them while the races are running, so I try to stay home with them and go out and eat with them when I can.”
With such a practical and mature disposition, Esquivel may be primed for establishing a great rapport with Arlington’s veteran horsemen and fans, and maintaining his momentum in his first Arlington meet. A native of Guerrero, Mexico, he has lived in Chicago for 14 of his 22 years, and would love nothing more than to be a success at Arlington in the place he proudly calls home.