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Victor Espinoza aims for January comeback

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DEL MAR, Calif. — Hall of Fame jockey Victor Espinoza is aiming to return to riding in January, six months after he was seriously injured in a training accident.

The 46-year-old rider says he had an MRI recently and “it came out perfect.” Espinoza says he doesn’t need surgery and his spinal cord has healed “perfectly,” which was his main concern.

He fractured a vertebra in his neck at Del Mar last July when the horse he was exercising fell.

Espinoza was back at Del Mar on Saturday for the first time since the accident. He presented the trophy to the winning connections in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby. He has been recuperating at his Del Mar home.

Espinoza says he hopes to return sometime in January at Santa Anita. The track opens its winter meet on Dec. 26.

He rode American Pharoah to a Triple Crown sweep in 2015.

Baffert sweeps Grade 1 2-year-old races at Los Alamitos

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LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. (AP) Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert swept the CashCall Futurity and Starlet for 2-year-olds, winning the Grade 1 races for the second straight year at Los Alamitos.

Improbable won the $300,345 Futurity by five lengths as the 1-5 favorite and 3-2 favorite Chasing Yesterday won the $300,345 Starlet by a head on Saturday. Drayden Van Dyke became the second jockey to win both races in the same year.

Baffert earned his fifth straight victory in the Futurity and his 11th overall, having won it six times at old Hollywood Park.

Improbable ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.18 and paid $2.40 to win. The colt’s ownership includes most of the group that owned Triple Crown winner Justify.

In the Starlet, Chasing Yesterday ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.59 and paid $5 to win. She is a half-sister to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, also trained by Baffert.

John Velazquez rides 6,000th win

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NEW YORK — Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez rode his 6,000th career winner in North America, guiding Singapore Trader to victory Friday at Aqueduct.

He joins Hall of Famer Edgar Prado, Mario Pino and Perry Wayne Ouzts as the only active riders to reach the milestone and the 18th overall.

Velazquez says reaching the plateau on Friday was “just another number” and it won’t be until he looks back at his career that he’ll “know I accomplished something great.”

He reached the milestone on a horse trainer by Todd Pletcher, who also gave Velazquez a leg up on his 5,000th winner in 2013.

The 47-year-old rider began his career in his native Puerto Rico before coming to the U.S. in 1990, when he rode 109 winners.

Velazquez won the Kentucky Derby in 2011 and 2017, the Belmont Stakes twice and ridden 15 Breeders’ Cup champions.

Away from the track, he is chairman of The Jockeys’ Guild board of directors.