Jockey Victor Espinoza, who is hoping to make history by riding the first Triple Crown-winning horse in 37 years, took a spiritual journey in Queens on Thursday, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff exclusively reported.
Espinoza visited the grave site of Grand Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, considered one of the most influential Jewish leaders of the 20th century.
Hundreds of thousands come to the cemetery every year 24/7 to pray.
Espinoza opened a prayer book, recited psalms, wrote out his own message and added his to a mountain of prayers at the sacred site.
Espinoza is not Jewish, but spiritual. He said after receiving a blessing from a rabbi at the Preakness last month, he scheduled the detour from his regular race prep for the Belmont.
Prayers for a pharaoh may be a first at the site, but worshipers welcomed Espinoza.
American Pharoah’s owners also answer to a higher authority. The Zayats were raised in Egypt as observant Jews. On race day, which is the Sabbath, the family will abstain from driving in observance and will camp overnight in luxury RVs on Belmont’s grounds.
“We have a value system in our life, and that is a priority in our family,” said Ahmed Zayat, who lives in Teaneck, New Jersey. “God comes first. (Then) family, country and all the others — all the others, you can put horse racing in them.”