From The Blood-Horse
John VelazquezHall of Fame rider John Velazquez, a two-time Eclipse Award winner, was presented with the Mike Venezia Memorial Award Aug. 30 at Saratoga Race Course.

Velazquez was named the winner of the Mike Venezia Memorial Award following a fan vote conducted on

The award was formerly voted upon by the jockey colony of the New York Racing Association, which created the award in 1989 to recognize those riders who display the sportsmanship and citizenship that defined Venezia.

Velazquez serves as chairman of the Jockeys’ Guild Board of Directors and is a board member of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund.

Last year’s recipient was Ramon Dominguez.

During a special ceremony in the winner’s circle following the third race, Velazquez was presented with the award by Helene Venezia, wife of Mike Venezia, who died in 1988 after sustaining injuries in a racing accident at Belmont Park.

Venezia, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., won more than 2,300 races during his 25-year career. Also in attendance for Saturday’s presentation were Venezia’s daughter, Allison, her husband, James McGowan, and their two children.

“I never got to meet Mike Venezia, but I heard so much about him—he was a great jockey, a great person and most of all a great family man,” said Velazquez, 42, who has won more races than any other jockey at Saratoga and is the nation’s all-time money-earning rider. “I was telling his wife those are big boots to fill, and I was honored to be recognized for those qualities.”