Jockey John Velazquez

Jockey John Velazquez

Crawford Ifland

Velazquez Hopes for February Return to Races

Hall of Fame jockey breezed first horse at Palm Meadows since having spleen removed.

Jockey John Velazquez said Jan. 12 he is "coming along pretty well" as recovers from serious injuries sustained in a spill at Santa Anita Park during the Breeders' Cup and hopes to resume race riding in February.

Velazquez breezed a horse at Palm Meadows Jan. 11 to gauge his fitness level.

"It's nice to be here and good to be getting back on horses," the Hall of Fame rider said. "I'm coming along pretty well and I'm getting stronger. I worked one instead of galloping, and the reason for that is working horses is more similar to race-riding. When you gallop them, it's a slower movement and you use different muscles in different ways. Working horses will get me fitter and stronger than just galloping.

"It felt good," Velazquez added. "I just need to build myself up a little more and, hopefully, by the beginning of the month I will be ready to start riding in races."

Velazquez, 42, had his spleen removed after being thrown from Secret Compass, who broke down during the running of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). He was the regular partner of reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan, and missed out on riding him in his successful Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) title defense. Velazquez won 37 graded stakes in 2013 despite being sidelined during November and December.

A two-time Eclipse Award winner, Velazquez was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012. He has ridden 5,088 winners during a career that began in 1990, and his mounts have amassed nearly $299 million. His career highlights include guiding Animal Kingdom  to victory in the 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), two wins in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) aboard Union Rags  (2012) and Rags to Riches (2007), and winning 12 Breeders' Cup races.