All eyes were on the 143rd Kentucky Derby last weekend as the most exciting two minutes in sports were capped off with a win by Always Dreaming and John Velazquez, who was named Jockey of the Week for May 1-7, 2017. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.
No one can deny the skill that is required to safely navigate the crowd, weather and competition of 19 other talented 3-year-olds to finish the Kentucky Derby, let alone do so victoriously. But Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez made the task look effortless, guiding Always Dreaming ($11.40) to a nearly three-length win in the $2,000,000 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) on Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Velazquez has been the regular rider of Always Dreaming in every race but one: the colt’s debut at Belmont last July when he placed third as a heavy favorite. Velazquez rode him in his next start as a runner-up in a maiden special weight at Saratoga and again as the colt broke his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs in January. Together, the pair won the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream, where they earned the 100 qualifying points necessary to secure a spot in the Derby starting gate.
With his Derby win, Velazquez led all North American jockeys by both stakes and total earnings last week, earning $1,847,844 in 22 starts. He had five wins, two second-place finishes, and three third-place finishes, for a win rate of 23% and an in-the-money rate of 45%.
He currently sits in fourth place by earnings among all North American jockeys in 2017 with $6,744,792 in 269 starts. Over the course of his career, he has won 5,709 races and amassed earnings of $364,064,547.
Velazquez rode in his first Kentucky Derby aboard Built for Pleasure in 1996. Since then, he has competed in the race 19 times. His first Derby win came with Animal Kingdom in 2011; he also placed second with Invisible Ink in 2001 and finished fourth twice, with More Than Ready in 2000 and Went the Day Well in 2012. Velazquez’ first win in a Triple Crown race was also the first for trainer Todd Pletcher, when the longtime trainer-jockey team brought home Rags to Riches in the 2007 Belmont Stakes.
The Puerto Rican native began his United States career in 1990 and won his first stakes race at Aqueduct soon after. In 1995, he won his first Grade 1 Stakes race at Belmont and won his first of many riding titles at Saratoga the following year. He was twice named the Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey in 2004 and 2005, and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2012.
Always Dreaming (6-4-1-1) has made six lifetime starts at five different tracks and has accumulated earnings of $2,284,700. He is currently the 2nd highest money earning Thoroughbred of 2017, behind Arrogate. The Bodemeister colt is trained by Todd Pletcher, bred in Kentucky by Santa Rosa Partners. The ownership group behind Always Dreaming is MeB Racing, Brooklyn Boyz, Teresa Viola, St. Elias, Siena Farm and West Point Thoroughbreds. Always Dreaming will make his next start in the Preakness Stakes on May 20th.
JockeyTalk360.com spotlights the riders across North America and around the world who may be the bravest, toughest and most accomplished of all athletes. The Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week is selected by a vote of representatives of America’s Best Racing, The Daily Racing Form, Equibase, Horse Racing Nation, The Jockeys’ Guild, The Paulick Report, The Thoroughbred Daily News, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, Thoroughbred Racing Associations, and Turf Publicists of America.