Jockey John Velazquez won two of the four Sunshine Millions Stakes on Saturday at Gulfstream Park on his way to winning this week’s Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for January 11th – January 19th which included holiday racing held yesterday. 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.
Not only did Gulfstream play host to the Sunshine Millions series, they were also the home of this year’s Eclipse Awards held later on Saturday night at the Miami racecourse. The veteran Velazquez himself has a pair of Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Rider, winning the award in both 2004 and 2005.
Before the evening festivities began, Velazquez would win a total of four races on the Saturday card including triumphs in both the Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf Stakes and the Sunshine Millions Classic. The Hall of Famer would take top honors in the Filly and Mare Turf Stakes aboard the even money favoriteLori’s Store, holding off a late closing E.B. Ryder to win by a measured half length.
“She was running pretty nicely,” said Velazquez. “I was a little closer than I wanted to be, but they went slow enough and they backed up and I got pushed to the outside. All I could do was wait there, bide my time and make a run down the lane. She finished up really well. The turf is a little soft, but they rolled it and the horses can get a good grip to it.”
In the feature race of the series, Velazquez aboard Team Valor International’s Mexikoma for trainer Mike Dilger, reeled in a determined Mr. Jordan in deep stretch to win the $250,000 Sunshine Millions Classic Stakes. Mexikoma won by 1 1/2 lengths over Mr. Jordan and that pair had 12 lengths on CatholicCowboy in third.
“He broke sharp and then he got into a little trouble,” Velazquez said of Mexikoma, his third of four winners on the Gulfstream card. “But we got into a nice position. I wanted to follow Joe Bravo’s horse because I thought he was the horse to beat.”
Along with those two Eclipse awards, Velazquez won the prestigious George Woolf Award in 2009 and in October of 2013, became the all-time leading money winner among North American jockeys, surpassing Pat Day. On that day his earnings reached $297,922,320 in career purses. The next year, Velazquez became the all-time leading money winner and the first whose earnings surpass $300 million.
For the week John rode seven winners from his 17 mounts with two second place finishes and two thirds. Velazquez led all riders in both stakes and total earnings with $383,700.
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.