Velazquez Heads Contingent of American Jockeys for World Cup

John Velazquez, who piloted Harlan's Holiday to victory in the Donn Handicap (gr.1) at Gulfstream Park last month, has decided to fly to Dubai to ride the four-year-old colt in Saturday's Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).

He will join six other American riders on the Dubai World Cup program, the richest in the world with total purses of $15,250,000 for seven races.

Velazquez made up his mind after wavering for more than a week. His wife is due to have a child in early April, further complicating a decision that he had said already had troubled him due to war in Iraq.

Trainer Todd Pletcher and Velazquez both are currently slated to leave the United States on Wednesday and arrive in Dubai on Thursday. Harlan's Holiday's owners, Jack and Laurie Wolf of Atlanta arrived in Dubai on Monday.

"Todd has talked to three other riders just in case John can't make it at the last minute," Jack Wolf said, although he indicated he did not know which jockeys were on the contingency list.

Velazquez has a chance to reap huge earnings on the Dubai World Cup program. He also is listed as the rider on Mr. John in the Godolphin Mile (UAE-II), Byzantium in the United Arab Emirates Derby (UAE-II) and Abreeze in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I).

Other American-based riders who are scheduled to compete on the program are Kent Desormeaux, who will ride Blue Burner in the Dubai World Cup and is booked in three other races; Alex Solis, who is tentatively listed on Dubai World Cup runner Crimson Quest and three horses in other races; Tyler Baze, who has mounts in the Godolphin Mile and Dubai Golden Shaheen; Aaron Gryder, who will ride for Saudi Arabian-based trainer Jerry Barton in the Godolphin Mile on Fabria; and Rick Wilson and Ramon Dominguez, who will ride Xtra Heat and My Cousin Matt, respectively, in the Dubai Golden Shaheen.