EFE writes that Puerto Rican jockey John Velázquez won his fourth title at Churchill Downs, leading the three-year-old colt Medina Spirit to the 147th edition of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, the first Triple Crown race of the equestrian season in the United States. Here are excerpts from an article by Mark Story.
For anyone who is discouraged in the pursuit of a dream, the Kentucky Derby career of jockey John Velazquez now stands as an ultimate testament to never giving up.
Even as Velazquez established himself as one of the premier riders in North American Thoroughbred racing in the first decade of the 21st century, his luck in our nation’s signature horse race was all buzzard’s.
Over the first 11 shots Velazquez got to win the Derby, he failed every time. His personal Kentucky Derby race chart was filled with finishes such as 19th (three times), 15th and 10th. Even worse, it seemed the Derby gods were determined to taunt the Carolina, Puerto Rico, native.
Three straight years — Quality Road (2009), Eskendereya (2010) and Uncle Mo (2011) — Velazquez was slated to ride a Derby favorite. Three straight years, those favorites had to be scratched due to injuries only days before the Derby.
On the day Uncle Mo was pulled from the Derby in 2011, Velazquez was 39 years old without a single Kentucky Derby victory. At that point, people had begun to wonder if Velazquez would ever win the Run for the Roses. Then, the idea that he might yet go on to become one of the all-time great Derby jockeys would have seemed ludicrous.
On a gloriously sunny first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs, Velazquez showed the ultimate power of refusing to give in to adversity. Turning in an expert ride, the jockey booted trainer Bob Baffert’s Medina Spirit to a gutty, front-running victory before 51,838 fans in the 147th Kentucky Derby.
“Johnny had him in a perfect spot,” an exuberant Baffert said afterward. “And when those horses came at him, (Medina Spirit) was all fight.”
Said Velazquez: ““You couldn’t ask for more of a horse. When you ride a horse like this who is competitive, you can’t ask for anything else.” [. . .]
Velazquez joins iconic jockeys Eddie Arcaro (five), Bill Hartack (five) and Bill Shoemaker (four) as the only four riders to have won as many as four Kentucky Derbies.
Having won the September running of the Derby for Baffert last year on Authentic, Velazquez is the seventh jockey to win the Run for the Roses in back-to-back years.
At 49, Velazquez is the third-oldest jockey to win a Kentucky Derby, behind only Shoemaker (54 when he won on Ferdinand in 1986) and Mike Smith (52 when he won with Justify in 2018).
“This kind of opportunity doesn’t come very often for a man like me, my age,” Velazquez said of his late-career success. [. . .]
[Photo above by Tim Broekema.]
For full article, see https://www.kentucky.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/mark-story/article251072089.html#