(from Belmont Park release)
Jockey John Velazquez reached a major milestone at Belmont Park Sept. 28 with his 4,000th career victory when he guided Rogue Agent to a six-length victory in the muddy first race.
“This was probably the hardest 10 winners of my career,” Velazquez said. “It feels great to put it behind me and move on to other things. As you get closer to a big number, it seems harder and harder to get there. I had a great weekend and rode some really nice horses. Every one of my wins was memorable to me. Every one counts to get to 4,000. This was a $16,000 claimer and it means a lot to me, making 4,000. Every one of them is special.”
Trained by Peter Walder for owner One Fein Stable, Rogue Agent returned $8.60.
A two-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s leading jockey, Velazquez entered the day with 3,999 victories, having ridden two winners – Wait a While in the Yellow Ribbon Stakes (gr. IT) and Red Giant in the Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship (gr. IT) -- for trainer Todd Pletcher at Santa Anita Park on Sept. 27. A week earlier, Velazquez rode three winners at Suffolk Downs, including Commentator’s runaway victory in the Massachusetts Handicap.
Velazquez, 36, began his riding career in Puerto Rico after having attended jockey school there, and rode his first winner, Rodas, in 1990 at El Commandante. In March of that year, under the guidance of Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero Jr., now his agent, he moved to New York, where he has been among the top 10 jockeys every year since 1991.
The leading rider in New York from 2001-2004, Velazquez just completed another successful meet at Saratoga Race Course, where he finished second in the jockey standings to Alan Garcia.
In 2004, Velazquez reached the 3,000 win plateau at Saratoga on the same day more than 35,000 fans received an official John Velazquez bobble-head doll.
Among his 4,000 winners were 2007 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) heroine Rags to Riches, the first Triple Crown victory for both Velazquez and Platcher; Flower Alley, who won the 2005 Travers (gr. I), and seven Breeders’ Cup wins: English Channel (2007 Turf), Speightstown (2004 Sprint), Ashado (2004 Distaff), Starine (2002 Distaff), Storm Flag Flying (2002 Juvenile Fillies), Caressing (2000 Juvenile Fillies), and Da Hoss (1998 Mile).