Huge Haskell day for Monmouth valet Kevin Velez
With Cyberknife setting a track record and trainer Chad Brown winning four consecutive graded stakes race on TVG.com Haskell day at Monmouth Park it was easy to overlook another impressive achievement on that July 23 race card.
Kevin Velez hit the valet “lottery” by serving as the valet for the winning jockeys of all six stakes races that day.
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Velez, 34, was the valet for Samy Camacho, who won the $100,000 Wolf Hill Stakes, for Flavien Prat, who won the $400,000, Grade 3 Monmouth Cup, the $400,000, Grade 3 Molly Pitcher, the $200,000, Grade 3 WinStar Matchmaker Stakes and the $600,000 Grade 1 United Nations. He was also the valet for Florent Geroux, who rode Cyberknife to victory in the $1 million, Grade 1 Haskell Stakes.
“It’s a day you never dream can happen – and you don’t believe it has happened until the day is over,” said Velez, the son of former jockey Jose Velez. “I have to give a big thanks to everyone involved and the other valets. Everyone was on top of their game that day. We were ready. It was a big day and I drew a good overnight.”
Of the 14 races that day, Velez, in his 11th year as a full-time valet at Monmouth Park, had nine of the winning riders.
Valets take care of the jockeys’ tack, getting their gear ready, making sure they are in the right silks and that those silks are clean, setting up saddles and basically “making sure they look sharp when the leave the jockeys’ room to ride.”
Velez said he has known Geroux for a while and that Geroux recommended him to Prat.
Even now, Velez is trying to process his remarkable one-day run.
“It probably will never happen again,” he said. “I didn’t even realize it was happening until the end of the day. People were asking me `how many have you won?’ I really wanted to make sure everything was done and everyone was taken care of before I started looking back.When the last race was over and they crossed the wire it kind of hit me that I had the kind of day that I had.”