2004 Eclipse Award Jockey: John Velazquez

If one didn't get a sense of John Velazquez' inexorable climb to the top during his record-setting (65 winners) Saratoga meet last summer, then surely the pair of statues he earned on Breeders' Cup day made his star shine brighter than ever.

Ending Jerry Bailey's three-year run atop the purse standings, the 33-year-old New York-based Velazquez led all riders in 2004, booting his mounts to winnings of $22,248,661--just over a million shy of Bailey's single-season record of $23,354,960 set in 2003.

"I'm so proud of him," said Velazquez' mentor and agent Angel Cordero Jr. "He's my jock and I'm grateful to watch his big year."

Add a close relationship with trainer Todd Pletcher and the competition could be up against it, facing this pair for years to come. Teaming up for 148 wins from 461 starts and purses totaling $10,725,323, the Pletcher/Velazquez combo paired for 23 of the rider's 40 graded stakes wins--including Speightstown  in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I), and Ashado in the Distaff - Presented by Nextel (gr. I).

Velazquez also scored grade I wins aboard Kitten's Joy, Sightseek, Commercante, and Storm Flag Flying.

In all, Velazquez, a native of Puerto Rico, found the winner's circle 335 times in 1,327 starts in 2004, good for a remarkable 25% strike rate.