John Velazquez Profile
|Born||Nov 24, 1971|
|Birthplace||Carolina, Puerto Rico|
Four-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey still going strong having made his US debut in 1990.
John Velazquez is arguably the most well-known Hall of Fame Thoroughbred horse racing jockey in the United States. He has been racing in the US since 1990, making him one of the most experienced jockeys too.
Velazquez has put together one of the most impressive records over the years, with 18 Breeders' Cup and six Triple Crown race victories. He has also won many other notable races, including the Kentucky Oaks, the Whitney Stakes and the Dubai World Cup.
John Velazquez's early years
Born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Velazquez first started riding in his home country, where he attended jockey school for a year and a half. His first-ever race came on January 3, 1990, at El Nuevo Comandante racetrack in Canovanas, Puerto Rico. He rode Rodas to victory in that outing.
It didn't take long for Velazquez to make his way to the United States - he moved to New York State the same year as his first-ever race win. He became involved with various names in the sport, like leading jockey Angel Cordero Jr., who acted as his mentor. During those early years in the United States, Velazquez lived with Cordero Jr. and learned to speak English.
Speaking about Cordero Jr. in 2005, Velazquez said: "I learned from him, not just about riding, but everything you need to survive. Since I've been here, he's always been behind me 100%, even when he was still riding."
Velazquez's first stakes race in the United States came in the Ticonderoga at Aqueduct Racetrack in 1990. The next year, he scored his first graded stakes win in the Ohio Derby as he guided home Private Man.
The jockey would have to wait a long time before winning his first Grade 1 stakes race though, which came in the Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont in 1995.
Velazquez then took his first riding title a year later at Aqueduct in 1996, and Yank's Music became his first-ever Eclipse Award-winning horse.
Breeders' Cup success
In 1998, Velazquez's titles increased to five at Saratoga, and he also had his first Breeders' Cup Mile ride when he rode Da Hoss. That race would become the jockey's first Breeders' Cup win, and it was considered one of the race's greatest comebacks as Da Hoss fought from the mid-stretch to win by a head.
Velazquez's next significant career milestones came when he won six races in one day at Saratoga in 2001 to set a track record, followed by his 3,000th career win aboard Runningforpresident in 2004 at the same track. Velazquez became the leading jockey at Saratoga in 2004, riding a record number of 65 winning horses. That same year, he won the Breeders' Cup Distaff aboard Ashado and the Breeders' Cup Sprint aboard Speightstown, which led to him winning the Bill Shoemaker Award for top performance in a Breeders' Cup race.
Velazquez was the 2004 leading jockey in North America, with 335 wins, while he had the highest earnings too. He also won that year's Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey.
2005 saw Velazquez take his second title for leading jockey and another Eclipse Award. He finished that year with 65 stakes wins aboard 34 horses. The jockey ran in an incredibly diverse set of events, ranging from races in the US, Canada and Dubai at 15 different tracks.
In a turn of events, Velazquez suffered a serious injury on April 20, 2006, but he made a long-awaited return to finish second in the Belmont Stakes on June 10. The jockey was also nominated to the Puerto Rico Horse Racing Hall of Fame that year.
Velazquez rode Rags to Riches to victory in the 2007 Belmont Stakes, making her the first filly to win the race since 1905.
By 2009, Velazquez had registered an incredible 24 combined racing titles from Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack and Saratoga. His top performance that year was a runner-up effort in the Belmont Stakes.
Velazquez's first Kentucky Derby victory came in 2011 aboard Animal Kingdom, who became the jockey's ride following the scratch of Uncle Mo. Velazquez nearly won the Preakness Stakes that same year with Animal Kingdom, but he had to settle for second.
He had the call for Union Rags in the 2012 Belmont Stakes, which became his third Triple Crown race victory. That year also saw him win the Breeders' Cup Mile aboard Wise Dan, a two-time American Horse of the Year.
Velazquez endured a somewhat disappointing 2013 season, finishing 14th in the Derby, and it wasn't until 2017 that he took his next Triple Crown win.
More Kentucky Derby glory
The jockey won the 2017 Kentucky Derby aboard Always Dreaming - his second career victory in the race. The two-and-three-quarter-length win came after a dominant performance in the Florida Derby. In 2017, Velazquez also landed the Distaff, which was his first Breeders' Cup win in three years.
In 2018, he took his 16th career Breeders' Cup victory aboard Sistercharlie in the Filly and Mare Turf.
Velazquez enjoyed a big 2019 campaign, starting with victory aboard Code of Honor in the Runhappy Travers Stakes. He also took second in the Kentucky Derby and guided names like Mind Control, Sistercharlie, Vino Rosso, Cambier Parc, Bast and Eight Rings to Grade 1 victories.
The jockey scored his third Kentucky Derby win in 2020 when he rode Authentic to cross the line first, defeating one of the sport's best runners in Tiz the Law. That year also saw Velazquez guide Gamine, a top three-year-old filly, to two Grade 1 wins.
With his third Kentucky Derby victory, the Hall of Famer registered his 200th Grade 1 win. In the fall campaign, he picked up his 17th and 18th Breeders' Cup victories aboard Gamine and Authentic respectively.
In 2021, Velazquez won his fourth Kentucky Derby, guiding 12/1 shot Medina Spirit over the line ahead of Mandaloun. This gave trainer Bob Baffert a record seventh Kentucky Derby win. He then guided the same horse to a third-place finish in the Preakness Stakes.
John Velazquez's major racing victories
Velazquez has had an extensive career, competing in almost every top race. His most prestigious victories have come in Triple Crown races, winning both the Kentucky Derby (2011, 2017, 2020 and 2021) and the Belmont Stakes (2007 and 2012).
The jockey's other significant victories have come in Breeders' Cup World Championship races. These include the Breeders' Cup Mile (1998, 2012 and 2017), the Juvenile Fillies (2000 and 2002), the Filly & Mare Turf (2002, 2011 and 2018), the Distaff (2004 and 2017), the Sprint (2004), the Turf (2007 and 2014), the Juvenile (2010), the Marathon (2010), the Juvenile Fillies Turf (2011), the Filly & Mare Sprint (2020) and the Classic (2020).