By Claire Novak
Jockey John Velazquez, injured when his mount broke down at Keeneland April 20, will miss the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) due to a fractured right shoulder blade and other injuries, according to Tristan Barry, an assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher.
Velazquez, who was released from the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center on April 21, could be sidelined for up to five months and faces a minimum recovery time of 12 weeks, leaving WinStar Farm's Pletcher-trained Kentucky Derby contender, Bluegrass Cat, without a rider.
"We're looking around [for a replacement] right now," said Elliott Walden, vice president of the Lexington-based racing corporation. "We're considering Ramon Dominguez, but it's still undecided."
In addition to his fractured shoulder blade and two broken ribs, Velazquez bruised his sternum and was leaking air from a slightly injured right lung. His wife, Leona, flew into Lexington from New York last night to be with the 34-year-old jockey. "We feel very blessed," she said. "According to what I've heard from people who watched the replay, we're fortunate that he didn't have further injuries."
On Friday morning, Angel Cordero Jr., Velazquez's agent, could not confirm that his client had broken his ribs. Cordero said he could not say for sure that Velazquez would on the sidelines for the Derby until he talked with the injured rider and his doctors.
"He's in a lot of pain," said Cordero. "He's more comfortable than he was last night. He's a little sore in the chest."
Cordero said that surgery had not been ruled out, but he hoped that the early dismissal of Velazquez from the hospital was a sign that surgery would not be necessary.
"So far, so good," said Cordero. "We know he's going to be all right. But how long he's going to be out, we don't know."
Velazquez was thrown when his Pletcher-trained mount, Vinery Stables' Up an Octave (by Brahms
), broke down while galloping out after the finish of Keeneland's 1 3/16 mile Forerunner Stakes. The 3-year-old colt, whose win in the race moved his career record to three wins in seven starts for Vinery, was euthanized after suffering a compound fracture in his left front leg.
Riding at Keeneland, Velazquez was tied with newcomer Julien Leparoux as the leading jockey for the Spring 2006 meet. He is also the current chairman of the Jockey's Guild. Velazquez won the Eclipse Award as the nation's top jockey in 2004 and 2005 when he also led U.S. riders in purse earnings.