Jockey John Velazquez notched his 3,000th career victory in the second race of Thursday's card at Saratoga Race Course. The mount was Anstu Stable's favored Runingforpresident, a son of Elusive Quality who covered the six furlongs in 1:10 4/5 and returned $5.80 to win. "I was planning a good break out of there, but he just didn't break again," said Velazquez, who was the leading rider of the recently concluded Belmont Park spring/summer meet with 77 winners. "He warmed up good, so I knew even if he didn't break good, I was going to put him in a place where the dirt wouldn't hit him that much; otherwise, he would have been jumping up and down. Once I got a good position, he was good."Velazquez, whose own agent, Angel Cordero Jr., holds the all-time record of 640 wins at Saratoga -- which is likely to be passed by fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey this meet -- set Saratoga's single-season win record last year with 61 winners. He is also the only jockey to ever win six races at this storied track, which he did on September 3, 2001.This is simply the latest milestone in a still-blooming career. "It's a great feeling," said Velazquez, whose bobblehead doll image was today's giveaway at Saratoga to all paid admissions, while supplies lasted. "Get it over with and move on to other things. Get it done as quick as you can and don't think about it. It happened quickly."Velazquez especially thanked Cordero and trainer Todd Pletcher, who set Saratoga's single-season mark for victories last year with 35 in a 36-day meet. Appropriately enough, Pletcher trains Runingforpresident. "I'm 32, and I'll be 33 in November," Velazquez said. "It's great. Never in my dreams would I have thought that I would have won 3,000, being 32 as young as I am. Thank God, I've stayed healthy and thanks to all the people that really gave me a hand like Todd Pletcher and all the trainers who have given me the opportunities. Angel (Cordero Jr., agent) is doing a great job and I have to give him a lot of credit because he makes 99 percent of the decisions.
"I come here and I like the competition," the native of Puerto Rico added. "I like winning. [Angel] is the one that's push, push and push all the time. I like the competition and that gives me the drive to push a little more, but he's the pusher. He sets goals and I'm more easy-going."