"I never see him in a bad mood, and I see him every day," Gary Stute says. "It's hard to be nice every day in this game. It's a really up-and-down profession. If you're winning, you're making money, and if you're not winning, you're not making money. Some days you're not doing as well as you thought you would."
For the past couple of weeks, the guys in the grandstand have been teasing Espinoza about his newfound fame. They ask if he's going to Disney World if he wins. He laughs them off. Chances are, no matter what happens, he'll find his seat back at the table for breakfast with the old guys at Clockers' Corner.
He knows that, this time around, it's a bigger deal than in '02. Espinoza assumes it's because of the horse, his beauty and his underdog story. He also credits technology for all the buzz, and Twitter.
On Tuesday afternoon, Espinoza posted pictures of himself with Yankees manager Joe Girardi, along with a selfie in a New York Rangers uniform. Just like his horse, Espinoza seems to love the attention. But by the weekend, the guest appearances will end, and he'll lock in with Chrome.
"He's having the time of his life again," Baffert says. "It's almost like a second chance in life."
On Saturday, Espinoza will take a nap in the jockeys' quarters, stretch and give the horse a neck rub.
In the starting gate, he'll grab the reins. He'll sit ready with Chrome.
He'll know how to lead.
His gut, his past and his horse will tell him.