Although John Velazquez lost the Saratoga jockeys' race to Jerry Bailey, the jockey rode into the record books Monday when he rode six winners, highlighted by an upset victory aboard Starine in the $500,000 Diana Handicap (gr. I).
After finishing second in the first race on the closing-day Labor Day card, Velazquez sat out the second. Beginning with the third, when he booted home Gentlemen Johnny ($5.30 to win), Velazquez had four consecutive wins. He won the fourth with Warners ($3.10), the fifth with Exaltdo ($12.40), and the sixth aboard Judge's Case ($10.00). After another second with Aslaaf, Velazquez came back to take the eighth with Celtic Melody ($3.30).
"I'm very happy," said, "It was difficult here last year sitting on the sidelines because I was hurt (broken collarbone). I would say I made up for it this summer up here. I'm very proud right now. This is a great accomplishment because it has never been done before. Doing it up here is extra special. I want to thank all of the owners and trainers and everyone else who is behind me. I'm very, very pleased.
In the Diana, Velazquez moved French-bred Starine through along the hedge in the stretch of the 1 1/8-mile turf test as the 4-year-old filly drew off for an impressive triumph. Starine, a daughter of Mendocino (by Theatrical) trained by Bobby Frankel, paid $12.40, $.600, and $3.50. Babae, a Chilean-bred who stalked the early pace, held on for second, paying $14.00 and $5.00. Favored Penny's Gold finished third. Starine completed the distance in 1:46.17, less than a second slower than the 1:45 2/5 course record.
"We had a perfect trip," Velazquez said. "Our plan was to follow Penny's Gold or Janet; whoever was going better I was just going to follow. On the turn, I just decided to stay on the hedge. The horses in front of me started to bear out a bit. It was absolutely perfect. Sometimes, you can't get through, but today, this horse made me look good."
The victory was the eighth in 26 career starts for Starine, who is also owned by her trainer and has finished second 10 times, with no third-place finishes. Beginning her career in her native France, Starine was trained by Jean-Marie Capitte to win the listed Prix Saraca before coming to the U.S. earlier this year. Second in the Gallorette Handicap (gr. III) at Pimlico in her U.S. debut on May 18, Starine was fifth in the Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) and won an allowance previous to her Diana triumph.