John Velazquez after winning his milestone 694th race at Saratoga Race Course on July 27. (Photo courtesy NYRA)
Jockey John Velazquez, inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame last summer in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., became the winningest jockey in the history of Saratoga Race Course when he guided Unitarian to a victory in the fourth race on July 27.
Velazquez moved into a tie with Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey when he won three races at Saratoga on June 25 and eclipsed Bailey’s mark two days later when he posted his 694thcareer win at the Spa. Angel Cordero Jr., Velazquez’s mentor and agent, ranks in third place with 649 career wins at Saratoga.
“It's a big number, I have to say that,” Velazquez said. “Just to be named after Jerry Bailey or Angel Cordero, who probably, in my eyes, obviously I'm a little biased when it comes to Angel, they are two of the best riders I've ever seen in my career. I'm humbled, and I'm happy.”
Velazquez has won 29 Grade 1 races at Saratoga since he rode his first race there in 1990 and his Saratoga mounts have amassed more than $45.3 million in earnings.
Velazquez won the Travers Stakes in 2005 aboard Flower Alley and has three victories in both the Whitney Handicap (Commentator, 2008; Lawyer Ron, 2007; and Left Bank, 2002) and the Woodward Stakes (To Honor and Serve, 2012; Quality Road, 2010; and Lawyer Ron, 2007).
Velazquez earned his first career stakes win at Saratoga in 1992 when he won the Daryl’s Joy Stakes aboard Now Listen and secured his first Saratoga Grade 1 win in 1996 when he guided Capote Belle to victory in the Test Stakes.
Currently ranked 28th all time by career wins with 5,023, Velazquez won the Kentucky Derby in 2011 on Animal Kingdom and is a two-time winner of the Belmont Stakes.
Unitarian prevailed in the 1 3/16-mile turf race by closing from off the pace for a half-length win. The Pulpit colt is trained by Todd Pletcher, who presented Velazquez at the 2012 Hall of Fame induction ceremony and uses Velazquez as his first-call rider.
“I definitely want to say thank you to [trainer] Todd [Pletcher]. I've been riding for him since 1998 and we're still going,” Velazquez said. “I want to thank my family without whose support I wouldn't be able to do this. And I have to thank the fans. The fans have been great to me.”
JOHN VELAZQUEZ'S INDUCTION INTO THE RACING HALL OF FAME