For jockey John Velazquez, winning two Breeders’ Cup races would be special but when one of them is the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Classic, it makes the day exceptional. The two Breeders’ Cup victories, including the Grade I Filly and Mare Sprint, led to Jockey of the Week honors for November 2 through November 8. 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.
It was the first Classic win for the 48-year-old Velazquez, who was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2012.
“I've been chasing this race for quite a while," said Velazquez. "For him to do it for me is incredible. What a feeling. The older I get the more emotional I get. It worked out perfect,” added Velazquez. “Bob said to take him to the lead so he doesn’t wander so much and keep his mind on running. It worked out. He did everything I wanted him to do.”
Velazquez sent the reigning Kentucky Derby winner to the front and never looked back en route to a two-length win in the 10-furlong $6 million Grade I Classic for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
The Classic victory marked the 18th Breeders’ Cup win for Velazquez, who kicked off Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup program by piloting Gamine to a track record score by 6-1/4 lengths in the Grade I, $1 million Filly and Mare Sprint, covering the seven-furlong distance in 1:20.20 also for Baffert.
"We knew that other horse (Serengeti Empress) would come out running, but I didn’t want to give it up too easy," Velazquez said. I put a little pressure on because I know that filly is really tough on the lead. I made sure I was close. When I asked my filly, she was there for me."
Velazquez was also the leading money-earning jockey for the week with $3,756,499 in purses.
Velazquez out-polled fellow riders Kendrick Carmouche who posted the most wins for the week with nine, Irad Ortiz, Jr. who won three stakes races at Keeneland including two Breeders’ Cup races, Joel Rosario who also won three stakes races at Keeneland with two Breeders’ Cup events and Luis Saez who won two stakes races including one Breeders’ Cup race.