05/02/2013 4:26PM

Kentucky Derby: Velazquez returns to race-riding

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Barbara D. Livingston
John Velazquez sustained a cracked rib and a chipped bone in his wrist in a spill at Aqueduct on April 7.

Jockey John Velazquez on Thursday returned to the saddle for the first time in 3 1/2 weeks, finishing last aboard the slow-starting first-time starter Armelda in the fifth race at Belmont Park.

It was Velazquez's first mount since suffering a cracked rib and chipping a bone in his wrist in a spill at Aqueduct on April 7.

"I had to ride that horse all the way around there," Velazquez said by phone from Belmont. "I got some air out of it. I feel good, I feel really good."

Velazquez said he also got on three horses Thursday morning at Belmont.

On Thursday night, Velazquez was scheduled to fly to Kentucky, where he was to ride two horses on Friday at Churchill Downs, including Dreaming of Julia in the Kentucky Oaks, and four horses on Saturday, including Verrazano in the Kentucky Derby and Point of Entry in the Woodford Reserve.

Asked about his fitness level, Velazquez said, "I'm pretty fit. I'm not fit to ride a whole card, but I'm fit to ride what I'm going to ride."

Velazquez said he is looking forward to riding Dreaming of Julia in the Oaks and Verrazano, who is now the second choice on the Derby morning line behind Orb, a horse Velazquez rode to victories in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby.

"I'm very excited, I hope they both show up," Velazquez said.

Velazquez said he is not surprised that Orb has usurped Verrazano as the Derby favorite.

"The two races he ran in Florida were very impressive," Velazquez said. "He's definitely going to be tough to beat."