Photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese/NYRA
By Jack Shinar
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez reached 5,000 career victories in North America June 14 after going 3-for-3 on the afternoon at Belmont Park.
Velazquez, 41, reached the milestone with Galloping Giraffe, his final mount in the sixth race for trainer Todd Pletcher. He is the 28th rider in the U.S. and Canada to hit that plateau. Velazquez's total does not include one victory in Puerto Rico in 2008.
Galloping Giraffe, owned by Repole Stables, won a $65,000 maiden claiming event for 3-year-old fillies going away by eight lengths at odds of 5-2. The one-mile race was moved off the turf to the main track. The daughter of Tapit was timed in 1:36.93.
"Everybody says that when you get close to a big number you go into a slump," Velazquez said. "I started to believe it. 'Maybe this is why I'm going so slow!' Everything was second and third, second and third. I was riding really good races and, unfortunately, was getting beat. Finally, it's over!"
Velazquez said, "Todd told me, 'Don't worry about the break. She is going to be slow. Let her fall behind, keep her face clear, she's going to come running down the lane.' She surely did."
Velazquez says he hopes he can win 1,000 more.
"I plan to ride for a few more years, if I'm healthy enough.," he said. "If God blesses me with health, I'll be here. We got to count on being healthy. Look at what happened to Ramon (Dominguez), one of the best riders I've seen in my 23 years, (retiring) right at the peak. You have to be healthy and be lucky."