During his 22-year career in the United States, Velazquez has become one of racing's elite riders. He is a two-time winner of the Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey and ranks fourth on the career purse earnings list at $262 million. He was one of 10 finalists to make the ballot for racing's Hall of Fame in 2011 and is on the ballot again this year. Velazquez won the Kentucky Derby for the first time in 2011 aboard Animal Kingdom, rode the filly Rags to Riches to victory in the 2007 Belmont Stakes and has won 10 Breeders' Cup races. He won his fifth Saratoga riding title in 2011. Velazquez has had a long partnership with trainer Todd Pletcher, and they have won dozens of stakes races together. A native of Puerto Rico, he entered jockey school there in June 1988. He rode his first winner at the El Comandante track in January 1990 before moving to the U.S. Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr. became his mentor and he spent a few months living with the legendary rider, who pushed him to improve. Following his retirement after a serious spill in 1992, Cordero became his agent. Among Velazquez' top mounts in 2011 were Uncle Mo, Trappe Shot, Sidney's Candy, R Heat Lightning and Aikenite.
Velazquez rounded out 2012 with a victory in the Belmont Stakes aboard Union Rags. For 2013, Velazquez rode Verrazano in the Kentucky Derby to a disappointing 14th, a previously undeafted trainee of Todd Pletcher. Velazquez rode Overanalyze for the Belmont Stakes, another Pletcher trainee.
Photo courtesy of Frank Taylor