Velazquez Breaks Bailey's Saratoga Win Mark

By Phil Janack
With one Saratoga Race Course riding record already under his belt, John Velazquez added another one at the historic track Saturday afternoon.

Velazquez, 31, rode Lightning Lyla to a three-quarter length victory in the second race, his 56th winner of the meet, one more than Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey's 36-day mark set in 2001.

Trained by Joseph Imperio, Lightning Lyla ($13.40) was one of four also-eligibles entered in the 5 1/2-furlong sprint, and drew into the body of the race when Rhonda's Number was scratched.

"It's great to get it done. It's a great feeling," said Velazquez, who reached the record in 34 days and followed up with a victory aboard Eagles Hill ($10.40) in the fourth race.

"I've been very blessed, very fortunate to ride for the people I ride for. They give me a lot of good opportunities, especially Todd (Pletcher). I'm blessed for everything that I have."

First-call rider for Pletcher, whose 34 wins are also a meet record, Velazquez rode his 42nd winner on Aug. 17, breaking what was recognized as Saratoga's 24-day record set by Manny Ycaza in 1959.

"This is a great accomplishment," said Velazquez's mentor and agent, retired Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero Jr. Known as the King of Saratoga, Cordero won 14 Spa riding titles including 11 in a row from 1976-86, both meet records. "I'm very proud of him."

After tying Bailey's record on Thursday, Velazquez failed on seven mounts on Friday, finishing second three times and third three times.

"I've been riding since I came here with the same confidence," he said. "My feeling is, I don't care about the numbers, I just want to win as many races as I can."

(Chart, Equibase)