08/21/2012 5:50PM

Saratoga: Velazquez on verge of record

Tom Keyser
John Velazquez is approaching Jerry Bailey’s record for career victories at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - After missing the first week of the Saratoga meet, Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez has more than made up for lost time.

Velazquez has ridden 22 winners from 88 starters (25 percent) and ranks fourth in the rider standings. While his two-year reign atop the jockey standings will come to an end – Ramon Dominguez has 47 victories – Velazquez could very well break Jerry Bailey’s all-time record for wins at Saratoga. Velazquez has 677, trailing Bailey by 16 entering the final 12 days.

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“I don’t think so,” Velazquez said. “If it happens, it happens. I don’t want to be pushing and riding too many.”

Since coming back from a broken collarbone that sidelined him six weeks, Velazquez has limited the number of horses he has ridden each day. Last Saturday, he rode seven. This Saturday, on what will be a 13-race Travers Day card, Velazquez said he would likely ride eight, including top contenders Nonios in the $1 million Travers and Ever So Lucky in the $500,000 King’s Bishop.

On Tuesday, Velazquez guided Ever So Lucky through a half-mile work in 48.77 seconds, getting his final quarter in 23.01 seconds.

Velazquez said trainer Jonathan Sheppard told him “to go nice and easy the first quarter of a mile and pick it up little by little,” Velazquez said. “Make sure you let him finish down the stretch. God, did he finish unbelievable.”

Velazquez rode Ever So Lucky to a third-place finish in the Curlin Stakes at 1 1/8 miles. When he got off the horse he told Sheppard he thought the horse would be better sprinting.

“He seems the more you hold him the more he wants to go,” Velazquez said. “From the quarter pole to the eighth pole he gave me all he had. From the eighth pole to the wire he was kind of flat. Sprinting, they’ll get away from him more, and he’ll have that punch that he has.”