Updated on 11/02/2013 8:16PM

Breeders' Cup: Velazquez has surgery to remove his spleen


ARCADIA, Calif. – Jockey John Velazquez on Saturday afternoon underwent emergency surgery to have his spleen removed at a Pasadena hospital after he was thrown from his mount, Secret Compass, who fatally broke down during the running of Saturday’s $2 million Juvenile Fillies, the first of the day’s nine Breeders’ Cup races run at Santa Anita.

Velazquez was taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital, where X-rays on all his extremities were negative. However, just prior to being released, Velazquez was complaining of nausea and a scan revealed blood in his spleen, according to former Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr., Velazquez’s agent.

Secret Compass was euthanized after being diagnosed with an unsalvageable leg fracture.

The accident prevented Velazquez from riding the remainder of the Breeders’ Cup card, including Wise Dan who, with Jose Lezcano aboard, won the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Mile for the second straight year. Lezcano has ridden Wise Dan four times, including twice in the spring when subbing for Velazquez who suffered a fractured rib in an April 7 spill at Aqueduct.

“I feel bad for Johnny and I feel bad for his family; this is not the way you want to pick up good horses,” Lezcano said. “Johnny’s one of the best guys in the business, he’s got a lot of class, he always takes care of everybody, and you feel bad for him that something happened like that, especially to a guy like him.”

Despite winning the Mile for the second straight year, Charlie LoPresti, the trainer of Wise Dan, was subdued in the post-race press conference, owing to Velazquez’s status.

“My heart goes out to Johnny and his family, I really wanted more than anything for Johnny to ride this horse today, he’s done so much with him,” LoPresti said. “But Jose did a great job. He’s always picked him up when Johnny’s gotten hurt.”

In the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, Rafael Bejarano picked up the mount on Palace Malice, who finished sixth.

“The only thing we’re hoping is to get him back and to feel okay,” Bejarano said. “I feel honored to have Johnny’s horse in the last one.”

Gary Stevens replaced Velazquez on Havana and finished second in the Juvenile, while Joel Rosario rode Alterite to a third-place finish in the Filly and Mare Turf.

Earlier this year, Velazquez became North America’s all-time leading rider in purse money won with more than $298 million. In July, he won his 5,000th career race, and in August he became the all-time winningest rider in the history of Saratoga.