Preakness win nets John Velazquez jock of the week

Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez found out that the number 13 is a lucky number after all.  His mount, National Treasure, his 13th in the Grade I classic, gave Velazquez his first Preakness victory. It was a four-win day for Velazquez including the Sir Barton and the Gr. III Maryland Sprint leading the panel of racing experts to vote him the honor of Jockey of the Week for May 15 through May 21.

The award recognizes jockeys for riding accomplishments and who are members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 1050 active, retired and permanently disabled jockeys in the United States.

Kicking off his stakes bonanza, Velazquez had the mount on Arabian Lion in the Sir Barton Stakes for three-year-olds for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.  Off as the favorite in the field of five, Arabian Lion broke sharply and in the lead. At the top of the stretch Velazquez asked Arabian Lion and the duo drew clear in mid-stretch to win by 4 lengths in 1:41.13 for the mile and one-sixteenth on a fast track.

“He is a different horse from two starts back,” said Velazquez. “He’s definitely bigger and stronger.”

Riding for California trainer Dan Blocker, Velazquez was aboard Straight No Chaser in the Gr. III Maryland Sprint. Off as the favorite, Straight No Chaser broke running and never looked back to post a convincing seven and one-half length win in 1:08.27 for six furlongs over a fast track.

“The break was awesome,” said Velazquez. “I got told by the trainer, if one goes fast, you have to go a little bit faster. I just let him do what he wants to do. Pretty easy.”


Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert gave a leg up to Velazquez on National Treasure in the Gr. I Preakness Stakes, the penultimate race of the day.  Velazquez and National Treasure gave the crowd a thrilling stretch drive battling with Blazing Sevens from the top of the stretch to the wire with National Treasure prevailing by a head in 1:55.12 for the one mile and three-sixteenths middle jewel of the Triple Crown. The race proved to be an emotional win for the trainer and the jockey.

“With all the blessings that I’ve had and all the success in other races, not having won this one was definitely missing,” said Velazquez. It’s very special to have it.”

“To me, this means more for Johnny getting his first Preakness win,” said Baffert. “I give Johnny credit; he got him out of the gate beautifully. That’s why he is in the Hall of Fame. I always feel confident when Johnny is on my horse.”

Other contenders for Jockey of the Week included Rafael Bejarano who won the Gr. II Black-Eyed Susan, Declan Cannon with a win in the Gr. III Louisville, Jose L. Ortiz with eight wins for the week and a stakes win in the Paradise Creek and Flavien Prat with a total of five stakes wins including two graded.