Call him “Johnny V for Victory.” John Velazquez won three Grade I stakes at Keeneland, plus the Grade II Futurity Stakes at Belmont to be named the Jockeys Guild Jockey of the Week. The title goes to the week’s outstanding jockey in the opinion of a panel of industry experts. They looked at races run from September 29-October 5.
Over the entire week, Velazquez won 8 races from 24 starts, earning $1,448,345. He won five races at Keeneland on Saturday, including a sweep of the late pick 4. His fans collected an average $6.90 payoff on his 8 winning mounts.
Velazquez, who is leading at Keeneland in both wins and earnings, rated Dayatthespa in second in the Grade I First Lady Stakes until the final furlong when she pulled out a 1 1/4-length win in the one-mile turf race.
“She broke really well and the other speed went to the front, so it worked well,” Velazquez said. “I was just holding it together and when I let her go at the quarter pole, she was all fresh. She finished unbelievable.”
In the next race, the Grade I Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity for 2-year-olds at a mile and one-sixteenth, Velazquez and favored Carpe Diem drew away to a six length win.
He completed the hat trick in the next race, the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile with two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan. In his first Grade I start since returning from colic surgery, Wise Dan tailed the field going into the first turn.
“Once that door opened and he didn’t break, I knew this was going to be a tough job behind horses to get him to settle,” Velazquez said. “Once I put him to the outside, he kicked in with his usual kick, but it was a little scary there to get him to settle behind horses, definitely.”
Johnny V and Wise Dan prevailed by a length at the finish.
At Belmont Park on Sunday, Velazquez tucked Blofeld behind the leaders in the Grade II Futurity Stakes before getting up for a three-quarter length win.
Velazquez was previously Jockey of the Week through the Labor Day weekend, when he also won four graded stakes.
Velazquez learned to ride in his native Puerto Rico and won his first race there in 1990. Later that year, under the guidance of Angel Cordero Jr., he moved to New York where he has won two dozen riding titles. He’s won eight Breeders’ Cup races and has won the Bill Shoemaker Award for top Breeders’ Cup performance by a jockey, as well as the George Woolf Memorial Award.
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 Jockey of the Week is selected by a vote of representatives of America’s Best Racing, the Daily Racing Form, Equibase, 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.