By Bill FinleyJohn Velazquez

You won’t find John Velazquez at Gulfstream Park Saturday, Jan. 9, but at the Gold Coast Turf Club in Queensland, Australia, where he’ll be riding on the Magic Millions Raceday card. Velazquez’s appearance at the Australian racetrack is part of a promotional tour arranged by Arrowfield Stud, the Australian home for stallion Animal Kingdom (Leroidesanimaux {Brz}). Arrowfield is bringing in Velazquez and Animal Kingdom’s trainer Graham Motion to help Australian buyers become better acquainted with the horse and his accomplishments on the racetrack. The Magic Millions festivities also include one of Australia’s top yearling sales, the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale.

“The first of Animal Kingdom’s Australian crops is about to be sold in the coming year, in 2016, and the first of those who will be sold will be at the Magic Millions sale in Queensland at the Gold Coast in a couple of week’s time,” said Arrowfield Chairman John Messara. “We thought it would be a great idea if Graham Motion and John Velazquez came over to be our guests at the Magic Millions and talk about the horse and how great he was. Australians, while they have a far more global view of racing than they had in the past, the horse didn’t race here and they won’t know a whole lot about the horse. To have these two guys here who were such a big part of his success will help to orientate people.”

Motion will not be racing any horses while in Australia.

Agent David Raphael will be lining up mounts for Velazquez and said he will be riding on the Jan. 9 card only.

“If we can get him a couple of nice rides for the day, well, that’s what it’s all about,” Raphael said. “It is a bit early to say exactly who he will be riding. We have him locked in for one, potentially two, mounts. We are also trying to get him a ride in the Magic Millions 2-year-old race.”

Velazquez, who won the 2011 GI Kentucky Derby aboard Animal Kingdom and has long been considered one of the outstanding riders in North America, has ridden in the United Arab Emirates, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Puerto Rico and Japan, but this will be his first appearance in Australia.

“I have never ridden in Australia or have been there, so this is definitely a trip I am looking forward to,” Velazquez said. “It’s one of those places where I’ve always wanted to ride. The opportunity came up and I am very excited about it. I definitely want to go over and win a race. Anywhere I go, it’s important for me to win a race and not just to have a ride around the track. Hopefully, I’ll get some good mounts and win something.”

Despite Velazquez’s many accomplishments, Raphael admitted he’s not that well known in Australia.

“They really don’t know much about him,” he said. “Other than the Breeders’ Cup, we don’t get much American racing coverage over here and the Breeders’ Cup comes around the same time as the [G1] Melbourne Cup. People know of him and have heard of him, but not like they know Frankie Dettori. Frankie has ridden in Australia so many times and we watch the races out of Europe. John is certainly at the same level as Frankie, but a lot of the trainers here honestly don’t know who he is.”

Velazquez, 44, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012 and is the leading all-time money-winning jockey in American racing history with more than $345 million in earnings. He has won more than 5,450 races and is the regular stable rider for America’s top trainer, Todd Pletcher. He has won a Kentucky Derby, booted home two GI Belmont S. winners and 11 Breeders’ Cup events.

The yearling sale begins Jan. 6 and Velazquez and Motion will arrive in time to attend the functions surrounding the sale and meet and greet yearling buyers. Eight offspring of Animal Kingdom will be sold at the Magic Million sale.

Animal Kingdom won five of 12 career starts and earned $8,387,500. Besides the Kentucky Derby, his other standout win came in the 2013 G1 Dubai World Cup.

“Animal Kingdom was one of the most special horses I have ever ridden,” Velazquez said. “For him to go from grass to dirt to Polytrack and win everywhere on many different tracks is incredible. He was definitely a very good horse. To win the Kentucky Derby for me was very emotional. It was an incredible feeling. What a great horse. He just gave you everything every time he went out there.”

Velazquez continued, “He was such a versatile horse. I understand his success as a sire has a lot to do with what kind of mares he’s going to get, but I think he will make a great sire. I am not a breeding expert, but for him to be so versatile and so talented, I think he has to throw something beautiful.”