Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
Just more than a month shy of his 42nd birthday, John Velazquez has been on a real run of major achievements the past couple years. A late replacement for the injured, Robby Albarado, Johnny V scored his first victory in the race that everyone dreams to win, when he booted home Animal Kingdom in the 2011 Kentucky Derby. Last year, he was welcomed into the elite of the elite when he was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame. During this summer, he not only became the all-time leading rider at Saratoga Race Course, breaking Jerry Bailey's record of 693 winners, but he also reached the milestone of 5,000 career victories. Today at Belmont Park, the hits kept on coming, as the Puerto Rican native became the leading jockey by earnings in North American racing history.
Velazquez broke the record of Pat Day, whose mark of mark of $297,914,839 had stood since 2005. He became the all-time leader, and reached $297,922,320 in career purses, by finishing second in today’s ninth race aboard 5-1 shot, Bit Bustin, for trainer, Gary Contessa.
Well respected by his peers, the 2009 George Woolf Memorial Award winner, which is given to the jockey who demonstrates his class both on and off the racetrack, was understated after breaking the record.
"It's something that happened to happen, and I'm glad it happened," said Velazquez.
Johnny V rode his first race winner at El Comandante in his homeland at 18 years of age. Later that year, and with the help of another riding legend, Angel Cordero, Jr., Velazquez moved his tack to New York, and the rest, as they say, is history. Among his quickly expanding list of accomplishments include back-to-back Eclipse Awards as Outstanding Jockey in 2004 and 2005.
Don't expect Johnny V to stop earning big money now that he has the record. In next month’s World Championships, Velazquez will look to pilot Wise Dan to their second consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile victory. Among his other notable mounts in the BC, will include a pair of talented three-year-olds for the trainer that has given him a leg up on more winners than any other, in Todd Pletcher’s Palace Malice, in the Classic, and Verrazano in the Dirt Mile.