Velazquez: Cordero Will Be 'Ecstatic'
by Ron Mitchell
Date Posted: 4/23/2012 3:28:22 PM
Last Updated: 4/24/2012 4:54:47 PM
John Velazquez (right) is congratulated by Angel Cordero Jr, after moving into the No. 2 spot among the all-time leading jockeys at Saratoga Race Course.
While he is proud to be among the four inductees into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in the class of 2012, jockey John Velazquez said the honor will mean even more to Angel Cordero Jr.
Also a member of the Hall of Fame as a jockey, Cordero is credited with mentoring Velazquez and serving as his agent after convincing the young rider to relocate to the U.S. from his native Puerto Rico in 1990.
“This is the recognition for the work you have done and I am very proud of it,” Velazquez said during an April 23 teleconference. “Even though it is big for me, you have to double it out for Angel. I know he will be ecstatic.”
Joining Velazquez in being inducted into the Hall at the Aug. 10 ceremony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., will be Canadian-based Roger Attfield, the late trainer Robert Wheeler, and 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper , bred and raced by Frank Stronach’s Stronach Stables.
Velazquez, who came from a family not involved in horse racing, said it took awhile before he realized his potential within North American racing.
“The third year of riding it kind of hit me—the Derby, Triple Crown races, Breeders’ Cup,” said Velazquez, 40. “You start to have a desire to ride those kinds of races and be competitive at the highest level.”
Velazquez, who has ridden more than 4,800 winners and scored his first Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) with Animal Kingdom, said aligning himself with trainer Todd Pletcher beginning in 1998 was also a major boost to his career.
“He was a huge help,” Velazquez said of Pletcher. “It was definitely a big jump.”
Velazquez said it is particularly gratifying for him to be elected into the Hall while still an active jockey. “I am looking forward to many more years (of competition),” he said. “I am still on top of my game. It is defintely very exciting to still be riding and getting into the Hall of Fame.”
Attfield, who is also a member of Canada’s Hall of Fame and has won that country’s prestigious Queen’s Plate a record eight times, recalled his arrival in North America from his native England in 1970.
“I was told North America was a country for anybody who worked hard. If you worked hard, you would get respect and do well,” recalled Attfield, who has received the Sovereign Award as Canada’s leading trainer eight times. “I remember when I was at my barn and saw a Queen’s Plate winner going by for the first time. I thought ‘I will win that Queen’s Plate one day myself.’ It’s been an unbelievable 40 years. Things have gone well for me. I am just delighted with where I am in life at this moment… You envision doing well but this is a great honor for me.”
Stronach, who said Ghostzapper and Awesome Again were equals among the best horses he has owned, praised the late Bobby Frankel, who trained the latest Hall of Fame equine inductee and died in 2009 at age 68.
“I was fortunate to get to know Bobby reasonably well,” Stronach said, adding, “he was just one of the great guys all the way around.”
Lin Wheeler, the son of Robert Wheeler, recalled one of his father’s proudest moments was being selected to train a West Coast string for C. V. Whitney. Lin Wheeler said the load of Whitney horses sent to his father was among the last to ever be transported cross-country via train.
The younger Wheeler, who helped unload the Whitney horses, said it quickly became apparent that most were horses with problems.
“As it turned out, they sent him most of the horses they didn’t think would do anything because they had problems,” said Lin Wheeler. “He developed them into champions.”
Wheeler won 1,336 races over nearly six decades starting in 1938. In addition to Whitney, he trained for Greentree Stable and Nelson Bunker Hunt. He won 56 stakes and trained 1982 champion older female Track Robbery.
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