Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who will ride undefeated Wood Memorial (gr. I) winner Verrazano in the May 4 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), returned to competition the afternoon of May 2 at Belmont Park, where he finished seventh on his first mount since April 7.
Velazquez, who suffered injuries to his right wrist and ribs in a spill one day after piloting Verrazano to a three-quarter-length triumph in the Wood Memorial, said he was looking forward to riding the Todd Pletcher trainee in the 1 1/4-mile Derby for Let's Go Stables, Susan Magnier, Michael Tabor, and Derrick Smith.
"I feel very, very good," said the 41-year-old rider, who won the 2011 Derby aboard Animal Kingdom. "I wish my horse had run better today, but I had no problem getting back into the swing of things. I don't think the time off will affect me at all."
Velazquez, who began galloping horses on the morning of April 30, had been scheduled to return to action the afternoon of May 1 at Belmont, but his horse was scratched. The jockey said he is to fly to Louisville the evening of May 2 and will ride favored Dreaming of Julia in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Authenticity in the La Troienne (gr. III) the following day. On Derby Day Velazquez has four mounts, including Verrazano.
"He's a horse who's done everything right," said Velazquez of Verrazano, a son of More Than Ready who is the 4-1 second choice on the Derby morning line behind 7-2 favorite Orb. He added, "He worked very well at Churchill Downs last week. I'm not surprised they made Orb the favorite; he's a very, very good horse. There are 19 other horses in the race, but obviously, he is one I fear."