Having already set one Saratoga riding record this summer, John Velazquez equaled another one Thursday afternoon.
Ending an 0-for-18 slump dating back to the seventh race on Sunday, Velazquez had two winners Thursday to give him 55 for the meet, tying Hall of Famer Jerry Bailey's 36-day mark set in 2001.
Velazquez got the equalizer with favored Classy E.T. ($6.70) in the seventh race, his sixth and final mount of the day. He also won earlier with long shot Saratoga County ($22.40) in the fourth.
"It feels great, let's put it that way," Velazquez said. "I don't really pay attention to it, but it feels great to do it. I hope it continues. I don't really know what to say, except I've got to tell you it's special."
On Aug. 16, Velazquez rode five winners to tie Manny Ycaza's 44-year-old record of 41 set in 1959, when Saratoga was a 24-day meet. The following day, Velazquez had three more victories, giving him 44 through 23 days.
He is represented by retired Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr., who won 14 Saratoga riding titles including 11 in a row from 1976-86.
"I think Angel's got to be more proud than anybody else," Velazquez said of his agent. "I'm real proud I did it for him, too. He chased that record for many years, and I didn't even know. He had to come into the jockey's room and tell me about it.
Velazquez won his first and only Saratoga title in 1998, when on the final day of the meet he caught and passed leader Mike Smith, who had been seriously injured two weeks before. He ended up with 31 winners, one more than Smith.
"This one definitely counts a lot for me. It's something I really wanted to get done, whatever happened in the past," Velazquez said. "Hopefully, I get it done. We've got a few more days to go."
Velazquez is named in eight of nine races Friday, including Daydreaming in the featured Spinaway (gr. I).
"I'm coming to ride every race, riding the same way," he said. "If the horses run, they run. If they don't, there's nothing I can do. I try to give every horse the best chance I can without overdoing it. They've been running good enough or not good enough to win, but today they were running good."Frankel Shrugs Off Slump
Can it be true? "Woe Bobby" instead of "Whoa, Bobby?"After starting off the Saratoga meeting with a half-dozen winners, including a pair of grade I victories, Bobby Frankel, the Hall of Fame trainer, has gone cold. Ice cold. Thunder Blitz' fifth-place finish in the eighth race Wednesday was Frankel's 18th consecutive loss.
"The meet's gone good," Frankel said. "I don't like losing that many races in a row, but what are you going to do?. Things happen. You've got to go in a slump sometime."
Seven of those losses came on the Travers program Saturday, though Frankel did have two seconds and a third. Among the runner-up finishes, Peace Rules was second in the Travers (gr. I) and Ghostzapper was a closing and narrowly beaten third in the King's Bishop (gr. I).
On Sunday at Del Mar, Frankel's Medaglia d'Oro finished second as the favorite to Candy Ride in the Pacific Classic (gr. I). Milwaukee Brew, who was injured and may be retired, was last of four.
Frankel smiled as he talked about his stable's woes.
"I probably won more money than any other trainer in the country this weekend without winning a race," he said. "I won $700,000 in purses."
Frankel is the leading trainer in the country this year in purse money won and already has 18 Grade I victories, four short of the record D. Wayne Lukas set in 1987. He understands that there are people who are enjoying his recent loss streak.
"I had a few that ran bad, but we had reasons for running bad," he said. "They don't look it at that way. They look at it, `Oh, he's getting beat now. Something's wrong. Something's up.'"
Frankel acknowledged those comments bother him.
"When I win they find reasons for why I'm winning and if I lose they find reasons why I'm losing," he said. "I can't win either way."
Frankel was annoyed by suggestions that he was cheating.
"The rumor in California when I got out there the next day was the reason I didn't win on Travers day was because they had security at my barn," he said.
"But they have that all the time. They have it for the Whitney. They have it for the Belmont Stakes. All the grade Is, they have security at your barn. Not just my barn, everybody's barn.
"But that particular day, somebody starts (a story). What am I going to tell you? That's why I say, `you lose when you win and you lose when you lose.'"
After nearly 40 years in the business, Frankel knows better than to react when things turn sour.
"I'm not changing anything," he said. "I'm doing what I've been doing that got me here."Sky Mesa Bouncing Back
Sky Mesa continued his comeback from a bruised left front hoof by galloping for the second straight morning Thursday on the Oklahoma training track.
Trainer John Ward said the Pulpit colt appeared to be improved even from Wednesday, when he went back to the track on schedule for the first time since finishing last in the Travers Aug. 23.
"He seems to be better, still maybe a touch tender, but he's in a very good frame of mind," Ward said. "He didn't miss a day, and that's kind of what feet do. They just kind of weather through it."
Next week, when Ward moves back to his Kentucky base adjacent to Keeneland, noted veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage will examine the foot. Then they will have a better gauge on what lies ahead for Sky Mesa.
"After they have a week or 10 days, then you take the shoe off there and you'll see whether it's a bruise or an abcess," Ward said. "If it's a third thing, a wall separation, when you train harder it will come back alive. You've got to kind of let it settle out.
"It usually takes 30 days for those things to get solid because the foot is such a slow-growing part of the body, just like a fingernail would be on a human being. How long does it take for that to grow out?"
Ward said he did not think the injury would derail Sky Mesa from his fall plans, which include the Breeders' Cup.
"At this point, it doesn't look like it," he said. "When we finally figure out what it was and if that's it, which I feel certain it is, then you've got to move to keep it from happening again, just make sure that when it meets the racetrack that there's something there to protect it. It's a huge menu of things we can do once we find out the exact diagnosis."Continued...,