Updated on 06/19/2012 9:15AM

Churchill Downs: Velazquez breaks collarbone in ninth-race spill


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Jockey John Velazquez sustained  a broken right collarbone and a possible kidney injury in a terrifying spill that occurred at the sixteenth pole during the ninth race Saturday night at Churchill Downs.

Velazquez’s longtime agent, Angel Cordero Jr., said Sunday morning it was possible that Velazquez would be released later in the day from Audubon Hospital, where the 40-year-old jockey was taken and admitted Saturday night. Cordero said Velazquez’s wife, Leona, was en route to Louisville from New York to assist her husband in returning home. It was unclear what type of travel restrictions might be placed on Velazquez because of his injury.

The seriousness of the injuries is not known, although typically a collarbone injury requires four to six weeks before a jockey can return to action, barring other complications. Cordero said Velazquez urinated blood Sunday morning and thus arose the possibility of damage to a kidney.

Velazquez was the most seriously hurt of three jockeys thrown to the dirt track in the incident. His mount, Mr. Producer, broke down badly near the sixteenth pole in pursuit of the winner, Lockout, and Velazquez, thrown hard to the dirt surface, appeared to be struck by a trailing horse, Lemansky, a few seconds later.

After a few scary minutes, Velazquez got to his feet, then was strapped to a stretcher. He was transported by ambulance to nearby Audubon, where he spent the night.

When Mr. Producer broke down, he fell immediately into the path of Smart Farda, ridden by Manny Cruz. A few strides later, Lemansky, with John McKee up, was unable to avoid the spill and appeared to strike Velazquez. Both Cruz and McKee were thrown from their mounts but walked away from the incident, with neither seriously hurt. Cruz was scheduled to return to his home in south Florida on Sunday, while McKee had lingering pain in his head and neck from the incident but otherwise was deemed okay by medical personnel.

Mr. Producer, a 4-year-old colt by Dehere, had to be euthanized after suffering grave injuries. He was making his third career start in the 1 1/16-mile maiden race and was owned by Albert Frassetta and Elayne Stable 5 and trained by Graham Motion. “So sad for Mr. Producer,” Motion tweeted late Saturday night. Churchill reported that the other two horses involved in the incident were not seriously injured.

Thirty minutes before the spill, Velazquez finished a close second aboard the odds-on favorite, Wise Dan, in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster, which was won by Ron the Greek.

This is the second time Velazquez has sustained an injury to the same area of his body in a spill at a Kentucky track. In April 2006, he was thrown to the Keeneland turf when Up an Octave suddenly broke down galloping out just seconds after winning the Forerunner Stakes. Velazquez missed the Triple Crown events that spring when out several months with a broken right shoulder, a bruised sternum, and two cracked ribs.

Velazquez was elected to the Racing Hall of Fame earlier this year and will be inducted in August at Saratoga. His biggest career win came at Churchill when he won the 2011 Kentucky Derby aboard Animal Kingdom.

– additional reporting by David Grening