John Velazquez won four graded stakes at Saratoga over the Labor Day weekend to be named the JockeyTalk360.com 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 August 25-September 1.
On Saturday, Velazquez teamed up with two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan for a narrow victory in the Grade II Bernard Baruch Handicap. On Sunday, he won the Grade III Glens Falls Stakes riding Irish Mission. And on Monday, he won the Grade I Hopeful Stakes on Competitive Edge, as well as the Grade III Saranac Stakes on Ring Weekend.
In all, he won 8 races during the week, earning $994,246. He rewarded his fans with an average mutuel payout of $7.00 on his 8 winning mounts.
In the Bernard Baruch, Wise Dan was making his first start since returning from colic surgery. He held off the fast-finishing Optimizer to win by a nose.
“He showed he has the heart of a champion,” Velazquez said. “He carried 127 pounds coming from a long layoff. When I got to the eighth pole, I didn’t think I got it. When I got past the sixteenth pole he was giving me everything he had and the other horse was coming from the outside. There was a little bit of doubt; he was getting tired. (I’m) incredibly proud. It’s incredible to have this horse coming back.”
In the Hopeful Stakes, Velazquez and odds-on favorite Competitive Edge gave trainer Todd Pletcher, the 999th stakes win of his career.
“This one has a great talent … Nothing bothers him,” Velazquez said. “This colt, nothing tears his hair out, scares him or anything. He’s so laid back, his future can be much better than the other ones. Like everything else, he has to stay sound. He has a great mind.”
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.
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