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Velazquez Rides 694th Winner to Pass Bailey as Saratoga's All-Time Leading Rider

By Jenny Kellner | 07/27/2013 04:17 PM ET
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John Velazquez
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez won the fourth race at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday to become the historic track's all-time leading rider with 694 victories.

Velazquez, 41, had tied retired Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey with 693 victories when he rode three winners on Thursday's card. Winless with three mounts on Friday, Velazquez finished sixth in the second race and then came from behind aboard the Todd Pletcher-trained Unitarian ($6.10) to win the fourth.

"I definitely want to say thank you to Todd [Pletcher]," said Velazquez. "I've been riding for him since 1998 and we're still going. 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. Thank you for your support. Thank you everyone. I appreciate it, and hope to win many more."

Velazquez was joined in the winner's circle presentation by his wife, Leona, children Lerina and Michael; his agent, retired Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero, Jr., who rode 649 winners at Saratoga; Bailey; the Saratoga riding colony and Christopher Kay, CEO & President of the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA).

"It was a matter of time," said Bailey. "I looked at the numbers; he goes by all-time money winnings either this year or next year past myself and Pat Day, he's going to set the standard for everybody. He's a great rider and he deserves every bit of this. I do hope he takes the time to enjoy and reflect on this, because it's major."

Last month at Belmont Park, Velazquez won his 5,000th career victory, also aboard a horse trained by Pletcher.

"I'm really happy for Johnny," said Pletcher, who has trained 255 of Velazquez's 694 Saratoga winners. "It's his moment, you know?"

Velazquez won the 2007 Belmont with Rags to Riches and the 2005 Travers with Flower Alley for Pletcher. He also won the 2012 Belmont aboard Union Rags and the 2011 Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom.

Born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, Velazquez began riding in the mainland United States in 1990. A winner of 22 NYRA meet titles, including five at Saratoga, Velazquez won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2004 and 2005 and in 2009 was honored by his fellow riders with the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award. He has captured 11 Breeders' Cup races, most recently the 2012 Mile with reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan.

Velazquez was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame last year in Saratoga.

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Quote from New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) CEO and President Chris Kay on John Velazquez's record-breaking 694th riding victory at Saratoga Race Course:

"I'm delighted for John Velazquez and it is entirely fitting that his record-breaking winner was trained by Todd Pletcher. I'm pleased that Todd and Jerry Bailey and Angel Cordero Jr. could all share the moment with John and his family. John is not just a Hall of Fame rider, but one who has given back to this sport in so many ways.  He is a model for all those who follow in his footsteps."

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