08/08/2012 2:53PM

Hall of Fame: Velazquez, Ghostzapper among six new inductees

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Tom Keyser
New Hall of Famer John Velazquez has won a Kentucky Derby and two Belmont Stakes among 4,841 career victories.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Entering the 1992 Saratoga meet jockey John Velazquez was struggling. He was involved in a spill earlier that year, had finished the Belmont meet on a 7-for-100 skid and was in need of an agent.

Velazquez, 21 at the time, thought about going home to Puerto Rico. Instead, Velazquez called on his former agent Ralph Theroux Sr., to see if he would work for him again.

“I said, ‘Do you want to work for me?’ ” said Velazquez, who worked with Theroux when he was an apprentice. “He asked me, ‘When do I start?’ So there was no hesitation at all even though the whole year was a rough year.

“I guess he had seen previously that I had the talent to be here and I was very grateful for him to step up to the plate and help me out for the rest of the year,” Velazquez added. “From then on we kind of took off and started doing really well.”

Though Velazquez’s career is still in full flight, on Friday he will land in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame as the 96th jockey to be inducted. Anthony Hamilton, who rode from 1881-1904 will also go in, having been elected by the Historic Review Committee.

Velazquez and Hamilton will be inducted along with trainers Roger Attfield and Robert Wheeler and Thoroughbreds Ghostzapper and Planet. Planet, like Hamilton, was voted in by the Historic Review Committee.

[LIVE VIDEO: Racing Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Saratoga Springs]

The induction ceremony will take place Friday at the Humphrey S. Finney Sales Pavilion, across the street from Saratoga Race Course. The ceremony, which is open to the public, begins at 10:30 a.m. Gates open at 9:30.

Tom Durkin will emcee the ceremonies, but Daily Racing Form's Steven Crist will not deliver the keynote speech due the death earlier in the week of his mother, Judith. No replacement was named.

Through Wednesday, Velazquez, 40, has won 4,841 races, placing him 32nd all-time. Velazquez ranks third all-time in purse-money earned with $268,389,978. Last year, he won his first Kentucky Derby, this year he won his second Belmont Stakes.

Since the late 1990s, Velazquez has been represented by Angel Cordero Jr., the Hall of Fame jockey who first brought Velazquez to America in 1990, when he was at the tail end of his riding career.

“He won the Derby, which is everybody’s dream on the racetrack, he won the Belmont twice, he won the Dubai World Cup,” Cordero said. “He was leading rider in the nation twice. This was the only thing he was missing and finally he’s going to get it. I’m very proud and I’m very happy that it happened early enough where I can see it.”

Cordero is known as the “King of Saratoga” for his winning 11 consecutive riding titles here. Velazquez is closing in on becoming the all-time winningest rider at Saratoga. Through Wednesday, he had 668, just 25 behind Jerry Bailey. Having just returned from a collarbone injury that sidelined him nearly six weeks, Velazquez has limited the number of mounts he rides each day. However, he has made the most of his opportunities winning with 13 of his 36 mounts.

“Definitely it would mean a lot to me,” said Velazquez, who has won five Saratoga riding titles, including the last two. “This is one of the meets that is very special to me. Going back to 1992. I thought I was going back home. It was a tough meet and to come back and do really well all these years in Saratoga it would mean a lot to me and it would mean a lot to Angel as well.”

Velazquez will be presented his plaque by trainer Todd Pletcher, with whom he has teamed to win hundreds of races.

Attfield, 72, has enjoyed the bulk of his success in Canada, where he won the prestigious Queen’s Plate eight times and has trained three Canadian Triple Crown winners. His biggest win in the U.S. was with Perfect Shirl in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

[JAY HOVDEY: Attfield, Wheeler finally get call for Hall of Fame]

Attfield’s other Grade 1 wins in the U.S. came in the Wood Memorial, Carter Handicap, Shadwell Turf Mile, and Flower Bowl.

Ghostzapper was the 2004 Horse of the Year, having won all four of his starts, including the Metropolitan Handicap and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Ghostzapper, owned by Stronach Stables and trained by Bobby Frankel, won 9 of 11 starts overall and earned $3.4 million.

Wheeler, based in Southern California, trained 56 stakes-winning horses including Hall of Famer Silver Spoon and champion Track Robbery.

Hamilton won dozens of stakes races in the U.S., including the Brooklyn (twice), Suburban, and Metropolitan. He also enjoyed success in Budapest and Russia.

Planet, who raced in the 1850s, had a record of 27-4-0 from 31 starts.

Fast facts: 2012 Racing Hall of Fame inductees

Ghostzapper
B. h. 2000, Awesome Again-Baby Zip, by Relaunch
Owner: Stronach Stable
Trainer: Bobby Frankel
Record: 11-9-0-1
Earnings: $3,446,120

• Elected Horse of the Year and older male champion in 2004, when he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Woodward, and two other graded stakes in an undefeated four-start campaign
• Earned a 128 Beyer Speed Figure winning the Philip Iselin at Monmouth Park. It is still the highest published Beyer Figure ever recorded.
• Won the Grade 1 King’s Bishop, and the Grade 1 Vosburgh against older horses as a 3-year-old
• Finished his career with a 6 ½-length victory in the Metropolitan Mile, earning a 122 Beyer

Roger Attfield
Born: November 28, 1939, Newbury, England
Career record (through Aug. 8, 2012): 9,577-1,745-1,406-1,298
Earnings: $90,007,354

• Won eight Sovereign Awards as outstanding trainer and is a member of the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame
• Trained three Canadian Triple Crown winners: Izvestia, Peteski, and With Approval
• Trained eight Queen’s Plate winners
• Won his first Breeders’ Cup race last year with Perfect Shirl, in the Filly and Mare Turf

John Velazquez
Born: Nov. 24, 1971, Carolina, Puerto Rico
Career record (through Aug. 8, 2012): 26,840-4,841-3,912-3,517
Earnings: $268,390,218

• Won Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey in 2004 and 2005, topping the earnings list in both years
• Won 11 Breeders’ Cup races, including two in 2011, with Perfect Shirl in the Filly and Mare Turf, and Stephanie’s Kitten in the Juvenile Filly Turf
• Won his first Kentucky Derby in 2011, with Animal Kingdom
• Won the Belmont Stakes in 2007 with Rags to Riches, the first filly to win the race in 102 years, and in 2012 with Union Rags
• Ranks third, behind only Pat Day and Jerry Bailey, on the all-time earnings list

Robert Wheeler
Born: c. 1920
Died: April 12, 1992
Career: 1938-1992
Won 1,336 races lifetime

• Trained 1982 older female champion Track Robbery
• Trained Hall of Fame female Silver Spoon
• Other major stakes winners include Bug Brush and Tompion
• Won five runnings of the Hollywood Juvenile Championship