Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, a longtime regular on The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) circuit, scored his 5,000th victory in the United States and Canada on Friday when he guided Galloping
Giraffe to victory in Friday’s sixth race at Belmont Park.
Photo: NYRA, Adam Coglianese
“Everybody says that when you get close to a big number you go into a slump,” said Velazquez, a 41-year-old native of
Puerto Rico who was 3-for-3 on Friday’s
card. “I started to believe it. ‘Maybe this is why I’m going so slow!’
Everything was second and third, second and third. I was riding really
good races and, unfortunately, was getting
beat. Finally, it’s over!”
Appropriately, the win came aboard a horse trained by Todd
Pletcher, who has combined with Velazquez for many triumphs over the
years, including the 2005 Grade 1 Travers
with Flower Alley and the 2007 Grade 1 Belmont Stakes with the filly
Rags to Riches.
“I was hoping that after he won [Friday’s third race] with
that he’d be able to win later with Galloping Giraffe,” said Pletcher.
“I’m exited to be a small part of it. We’ve been the beneficiary of many
great rides by Johnny, and winning 5,000
races is a tremendous achievement.”
Belmont was the first Triple Crown win for Velazquez, who later annexed the 2011 Grade 1
Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom and the 2012
Belmont with Union Rags.
Velazquez began riding in the mainland
in 1990 and won his first NYRA meet title during the 1996 Aqueduct
spring meet. In total, he has won 26 NYRA meet titles, including five at
Saratoga Race Course,
where he has won 685 races, trailing only retired Hall of Famer Jerry
Bailey (693 wins).
In 2004 and 2005, Velazquez won the Eclipse Award for
Outstanding Jockey and in 2009 was honored by his fellow riders with the
George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. He
has captured 11 Breeders’ Cup races, most recently the 2012 Mile with
reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan.
Velazquez used the moment to pay tribute to jockey Ramon
Dominguez, who announced his retirement yesterday after winning 4,985
“I plan to ride for a few more years, if I’m healthy enough,”
said Velazquez. “If God blesses me with health, I’ll be here. We got to
count on being healthy. Look at
what happened to Ramon [Dominguez], one of the best riders I’ve seen in
my 23 years. [He had to retire] right at the peak. You have to be
healthy and be lucky.”