Like race fans everywhere, Jockey John Velazquez couldn’t wait for the opening of Saratoga Racecourse this week. He got a running start at the leading rider title by winning seven races there this week. Three of those wins were in stakes events and helped lead him to being named the Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for July 20th – July 26th. 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.
Velazquez kicked of his stakes winning Triple on Saturday with a victory in the Sanford Stakes aboard Uncle Vinny. Velazquez just got his mount up for second in the late stages of the Grade 3 affair. In doing so, John was then the beneficiary of a Stewards inquiry that disqualified the first place finisher Magna Light giving the Todd Pletcher trained Uncle Vinny the victory.
The veteran rider then got the job done in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes in course record time aboard Hard Not To Like for trainer Christophe Clement. “I’m delighted she was ridden by Johnny Velazquez. He’s a top jockey, and there’s a reason why. He makes a difference. “She got a superb ride and she’s also a very good filly” said Clement.
Sunday was also a big day for the veteran rider as he captured another Grade 1 win. Interestingly enough, Velazquez once again crossed the finish line in second place in the Coaching Club of America Oaks aboard Curlina. After reviewing replays, Saratoga stewards ruled I’m a Chatterbox came into Curalina’s path deep in the stretch and disqualified the top finisher to a second place finish, installing the Todd Pletcher-trained runner as the winner.
“He took her out and she bumped me, and my horse switched to the left lead,” said Velazquez. “Now I’m unbalanced, and then I had to get after her to get her back in, and I just missed the wire. I knew two jumps before the wire, I was going to get him. When she got bumped and went to her left lead, she lost her balance, I lost my balance. I had to get back on her and just missed it. No doubt in my mind, I was going to get her.”
Velazquez is off to a great start again at Saratoga finishing the week with seven wins, two seconds, and earnings of $809,753 from 23 mounts.
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, 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.