Johnny West

For the first time in his illustrious 32-year career, Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will ride full-time this winter at Santa Anita, beginning with the track’s opening day, Sunday, December 26th.

A 50-year-old native of Puerto Rico, Johnny V as he’s affectionately known, is Thoroughbred racing’s all-time leading money Winning jockey, with career purse earnings of more than $446 million from 6,357 Wins. 

A Winner of four Kentucky Derbies, including this year’s running with MEDINA SPIRIT, Velazquez has Won 18 Breeders’ Cup races, including the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Classic with AUTHENTIC.

A dominant force on the East Coast for many years, Velazquez, got his first career Win in Puerto Rico on January 3rd, 1990.

He then began riding full-time in New York later that year and was soon befriended by another Puerto Rican rider, the legendary Angel Cordero, Jr. who served as an invaluable mentor, as Velazquez sought to immerse himself in American culture.

When Cordero retired from the saddle, he became Velazquez’s agent in 1998. 

The results were instantaneous and remarkable. Velazquez rode first-call for top trainer Todd Pletcher, and would go on to become Saratoga’s all-time leading jockey and become America’s leading rider by money-Won in 2004 and 2005, Winning Eclipse Award Champion Jockey honors in both years as well.

Although he enjoyed tremendous success with Cordero, Velazquez shifted gears in late 2019, as he hired superstar agent Ron Anderson, who at the time was working for Joel Rosario, who he continues to represent.

“We’re looking to winter out there instead of going to Florida, we’re looking for some sort of change,” said Anderson, himself a Southern California native.  “Johnny’s at a point, we’re looking for good horses, Graded Stakes and the like. I think he’s very excited about being there.”

Anderson also noted that while Velazquez will be based at Santa Anita through the month of March, he will also be flying out of town to ride in major Stakes such as the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on January 29th and other races nationally and internationally as well.

Velazquez will be joining a star-studded riding colony headed by the likes of Flavien Prat, Juan Hernandez, Umberto Rispoli, Joe Bravo, Abel Cedillo and fellow Hall of Famers Kent Desormeaux, Victor Espinoza and Mike Smith.

Always courteous and professional- Johnny V is one of our favorites here at the Daily Racing Blog, and while we will miss seeing his rides here on the east coast, we wish him much success as he winters out west.

Safe trip John.

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