06/19/2012 4:41PM

Churchill Downs: Velazquez released from hospital on Tuesday, headed home to New York


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Jockey John Velazquez was released Tuesday from Audubon Hospital and was headed home to New York after spending three nights in Louisville with a broken right collarbone he suffered in a frightening spill during the ninth race Saturday night at Churchill Downs.

Through a press release issued by The Jockeys’ Guild, it was confirmed that Velazquez suffered not only the collarbone injury but also some damage to a kidney, having suffered a “traumatic blow” to it. The release said his attending physicians estimated it will take about two weeks for the kidney to heal on its own, and that in the meantime Velazquez will see his doctors at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City in regard to the collarbone injury. No further speculation about his recovery time will be made until then.

Leona Velazquez, his wife, thanked all those who helped Velazquez during his stay, including Dr. Bayard Rice, the onsite physician at Churchill; Dr. Ganesh Rao; nurses and staff at Audubon; and Heather Craig, an assistant to trainer Graham Motion who remained at the hospital for much of the jockey’s stay.

“They did such a thorough job making sure he was 100 percent before he was released,” she said.

Velazquez, 40, was the most seriously hurt of three jockeys thrown to the dirt track in a race that directly followed the running of the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap. His mount, Mr. Producer, broke down badly near the sixteenth pole and was euthanized shortly thereafter with grave injuries. The other jockeys, John McKee and Manny Cruz, escaped serious injury, as did their mounts.

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

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 for Motion.

Velazquez’s longtime agent, Angel Cordero Jr., had said Monday he believed Velazquez was to be released from the hospital that day, but Velazquez was kept an additional night.