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Velazquez Returns to Riding Thursday at Belmont, Then Departs for Louisville

By Jenny Kellner | 05/02/2013 05:09 PM ET
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John Velazquez
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who will ride undefeated Verrazano in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, returned to competition Thursday afternoon at Belmont Park, finishing seventh on his first mount since April 7.

Velazquez, who suffered injuries to his right wrist and ribs one day after piloting Verrazano to a three-quarter-length triumph in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, said he was looking forward to riding the Todd Pletcher trainee in the 1 ¼ mile Derby.

“I feel very, very good,” said the 41-year-old rider, who won the 2011 Derby aboard Animal Kingdom. “I wish my horse had run better today, but I had no problem getting back into the swing of things. I don’t think the time off will affect me at all.”

Velazquez, who began galloping horses on Tuesday morning, had been scheduled to return to action Wednesday afternoon at Belmont, but his horse was scratched. The jockey said he was to fly Thursday night to Louisville, where on Friday he will ride favored Dreaming of Julia in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Authenticity in the Grade 3 La Troienne. On Saturday, Velazquez has four mounts, including Verrazano.

“He’s a horse who’s done everything right,” said Velazquez of Verrazano, second choice on the Derby morning line behind Orb, adding: “He worked very well at Churchill Downs last week. I’m not surprised they made Orb the favorite; he’s a very, very good horse. There are 19 other horses in the race, but obviously, he is one I fear.”

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