John Velazquez enrolled in the jockeys school in his native Puerto Rico at the age of 16.
Two years later, in March 1990, just two months after riding his first winner, he emigrated to New York and began a long association with his fellow Puerto Rican, Angel Cordero, who at the time was one of America’s top jockeys and now, having hung up his riding boots, acts as Velazquez’s agent.
Velazquez took a while to break through but in both 1995 and 1996 finished second in the New York rider standings, a title he finally managed to win for the first time in 2001. He is married to Leona, daughter of trainer Leo O’Brien, and they have two children, Lerina and Michael.
He won his first Grade 1 race in 1993 (Awad in the Secretariat Stakes) and his first Breeders’ Cup race five years later (Da Hoss in the Mile). In 2011, Animal Kingdom gave him his first success in America’s biggest race, the Kentucky Derby.
On the international stage, he won the Dubai World Cup in 2005 on Roses in May and in 2009 landed a pair of Royal Ascot events on the Wesley Ward-trained two-year-olds Strike The Tiger and Jealous Again.
He was inducted into the US Hall Of Fame in August 2012 and on June 14 2013 he rode his 5,000th American winner, Galloping Giraffe at Belmont Park. His career bankroll is about the US$300 million mark.
In 2017, he returned to British shores to steer the brilliant Lady Aurelia to success in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot for Wesley Ward after her intended jockey, Frankie Dettori, was ruled out by injury.
Velasquez said: “It makes my job a lot easier when they do it like that. All I was worried about was her just using up too much energy in the first part of the race. What a feeling, when you ask a horse to run and they respond like that. You feel so comfortable and know they are running as fast as they can.
“It worked out really well; she settled in the first part of the race and when I asked her she responded right away with a great turn of foot – very quick. It was a great feeling. When a horse is travelling so beautifully and responds right away when you ask, you can’t get better than that. She’s definitely very fast. To come back here for a second time and do what she did today, she’s got to be a special horse.”
QIPCO British Champions Series Victories
BCS Career statistics
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