01/08/2013 6:45PM

2012 Eclipse Awards: John Velazquez

photo by: Barbara D. Livingston

Jockey John Velazquez won the Belmont Stakes in June, entered the National Racing Hall of Fame in August, and won the Breeders’ Cup Mile with Horse of the Year contender Wise Dan in November. It was a whirlwind year, and for his accomplishments he is a finalist for the 2012 Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey. Velazquez is seeking his third win in the category after claiming the Eclipse in 2004 and 2005.

Velazquez, 41, put up impressive numbers in 2012 despite missing nearly a month and a half of the season because of injuries sustained in a June 16 spill at Churchill Downs. He won 188 races from 979 starts for mount earnings of $19,875,351, and ranked third in purses won among all jockeys in North America. But perhaps more notable is the litany of top-class horses Velazquez teamed with in 2012 to collect 14 Grade 1 wins. No other rider won more last year.  

Wise Dan put himself at the center of the Horse of the Year debate Nov. 3 at Santa Anita, when under Velazquez he won the Breeders’ Cup Mile in a course-record time of 1:31.89. Union Rags gave Velazquez his second Belmont Stakes win June 9, when he slipped up the rail for a neck win over Paynter.

Velazquez was also at the helm in another of the year’s most exciting races May 28, guiding Shackleford to a nose win over Caleb’s Posse in the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park. Other horses Velazquez partnered with in 2012 included Dreaming of Julia, who won the Frizette, and Point of Entry, with whom he captured the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, Man o’ War, and the Sword Dancer.