A Saratoga State of Mind for John Velazquez

By Karen M. Johnson @WriterHorses John Velazquez’s first trip to ride at Saratoga Race Course in 1990 is a memory so precisely etched in his mind, the jockey recalls it as if it happened yesterday. “The first year I went I was with Angel [Cordero] and we flew to Saratoga from LaGuardia [Airport], and he was telling me everything about Saratoga,” Velazquez said in a recent interview with Jockey Talk 360. “He definitely painted the picture to me, from day one, that it was a special place. He explained that I needed to concentrate and do the best I...

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Apprentice Eric Cancel Turning Heads in New York

By Karen M. Johnson For JockeyTalk360.com On a recent and hot summer afternoon at Belmont Park, apprentice Eric Cancel’s cool-headed approach to race riding was on full display. Patience, a great asset in a young rider and an attribute that isn’t always present early in a jockey’s career, was exhibited by Cancel in the seventh race on July 12. While riding the Todd Pletcher-trained My Kinda Gal, the five-pound apprentice hugged the hedge down the backstretch of the turf sprint. With three furlongs remaining, Cancel looked to be in a switch, but he maintained his inside position and a...

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Gary West’s 2015 Derby Rankings (4/21/2015 Update)

Jockeying for position begins, of course, long before the doors of the starting gate open. And John Velazquez has taken his position for the Kentucky Derby: He’ll be on Carpe Diem, as expected, rather than Materiality. And with that, several assignments have become clear as the Derby approaches. Javier Castellano will ride Materiality, and Mike Smith will stay with Far Right. And three-time Derby winner Calvin Borel has a mount, replacing C. C. Lopez on El Kabeir. A few assignments, though, and a few horses for the Derby still remain uncertain. And with all this settling, Victor Espinoza moves...

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Gary West’s 2015 Derby Rankings (4/14/2015 Update)

American Pharoah had to travel through a blizzard of praise, but he arrived safely Monday afternoon in Louisville as the one to beat in the Kentucky Derby. His recent victory at Oaklawn Park couldn’t have been easier, nor his performance more impressive. He won the Arkansas Derby by eight lengths even though Victor Espinoza was pulling up the handsome colt at the wire. With that, American Pharoah moves to the front of the line among Kentucky Derby contenders, and Espinoza moves to fourth among the jockeys. But, of course, if there are no defections, Espinoza will occupy the top...

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Gary West’s 2015 Derby Rankings (4/6/15 Update)

John Velazquez must soon make a most difficult decision: Carpe Diem or Materiality. Velazquez recently won the Blue Grass Stakes on Carpe Diem, and already he had won the Florida Derby on Materiality. Aimed at the Kentucky Derby, both horses are among the leading contenders for the first event in the famed Triple Crown. So on May 2 which horse will the sport’s all-time leading jockey (in purse money won) ride? And who will ride the other? Joel Rosario joined the leading jockeys on the way to Kentucky with his victory on Frosted in Saturday’s Wood Memorial at Aqueduct....

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