By BRIEN BOUYEA, Communications Officer
One of the most accomplished and respected jockeys in the history of the sport, John Velazquez was still in the prime of his remarkable career when he was elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
After attending jockey school in his native land of Puerto Rico, the 18-year-old Velazquez journeyed to the United States in March of 1990. His natural skill set caught the eye of Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero, Jr., who mentored the young Velazquez and later became his agent.
Velazquez steadily worked his way into the upper echelon of the competitive jockey colony in New York and began to assert himself as a star in the late 1990s. Velazquez won the first of his five Saratoga riding championships in 1998 and set a Spa record with 65 victories in 2004. He has won a total of 22 riding titles at New York tracks and topped the national standings in wins from 2001 through 2004.
The Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey in 2004 and 2005, Velazquez has always been at his best in the biggest races. He won a total of 50 Grade 1 races from 2006 through 2011, including the 2007 Belmont Stakes and the 2011 Kentucky Derby. His Belmont victory with Rags to Riches marked the first time in 102 years that a filly was victorious in the final leg of the Triple Crown.
Velazquez has won 11 Breeders’ Cup races and multiple runnings of the Alabama, Beldame, Champagne, Clark Handicap, Dwyer, Flower Bowl, Frizette, Hollywood Derby, King’s Bishop, Metropolitan Handicap, Mother Goose, Personal Ensign, Remsen, Test, Vosburgh, Whitney Handicap, and Sanford. He has also won single editions of the Travers, Florida Derby, Kentucky Oaks, Blue Grass, Louisiana Derby, Wood Memorial, and Woodward, among others. Velazquez has also shined on the international stage with a victory in the Dubai World Cup and two stakes wins at the 2009 Royal Ascot meet in England.
At the time of his election to the Hall of Fame, Velazquez had won more than 4,800 career races and ranked fourth all time in earnings with more than $265 million.