Winning three Grade 1s, including the world’s most recognized race, lead to Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez unanimously being named Jockey of the Week for April 26 through May 2. The award, which is voted on by a panel of racing experts, is for jockeys who are members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 active riders in the United States as well as retired and permanently disabled jockeys.
On a spectacular weekend of racing, Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez became just the eighth jockey in history to win both the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby in the same year. But the Grade I wins didn’t stop there as he also won the Grade I Derby City Distaff.
Velazquez’s Grade I haul started Friday when trainer Todd Pletcher reunited Velazquez with Malathaat in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks. Off as the favorite in the field of 13, Malathaat settled in fifth position. In upper stretch, Malathaat and Search Results drew clear of their rivals and battled to the wire with Malathaat prevailing by a neck. “She got away from there just a bit slow, said Pletcher, but Johnny (Velazquez) moved her up and got her in a much better position. He had to lose some ground and go wide to do it, but it was the right thing to do.” Final time for the 1-1/8th miles was 1:48.99.
Under picture perfect skies on Saturday, trainer Bob Baffert gave Velazquez a leg up on Champion Female Sprinter, Gamine in the Grade I Derby City Distaff for fillies and mares, four years-old and up. Velazquez took Gamine to the front and held off a late bid from Sconsin to win by 1-1/2 lengths. “She didn’t get to the break I hoped for but she bounced back really quickly and ran really easy in the early going. She showed what a champion she was and I am really proud of my filly,” said Velazquez. Final time for the seven furlongs on a fast track was 1:21.50.
For the second year in a row, Hall of Famers Bob Baffert and John Velazquez teamed up in the Grade I Kentucky Derby with the same result: a win in the Run for the Roses. This year, Velazquez rode the unheralded Medina Spirit, Baffert’s only entry in the race. Velazquez took Medina Spirit to the lead at the start, set all the fractions and dug deep to fend off challengers, Mandaloun, Hot Rod Charlie and Essential Quality to win by a half-length in 2:01.2. “You couldn’t ask more of a horse. When you ride a horse like this who is competitive you can’t ask for anything else,” said Velazquez who won the race for the fourth time.
Weekly stats for Velazquez were 17-4-2-4 for a 23.4% win percentage and total purse earnings of $3,141,211 to lead all jockeys.
Velazquez out-polled fellow jockeys Manny Franco and Paco Lopez who tied for number of wins, and Florent Geroux and Flavien Prat who each won three stakes races.