07/09/2012 4:05PM

Velazquez getting back on horses in morning at Saratoga


Jockey John Velazquez, sidelined since sustaining a broken collarbone in a spill at Churchill Downs on June 16, will begin getting on horses in the morning next week at Saratoga, but stopped short of saying if he would be ready to return to race-riding by the July 20 opening of the meet.

On Monday, Velazquez met with Dr. Stephen O’Brien at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, who cleared him to begin getting on horses next Monday at Saratoga.

“After that, I will just have to play it by ear,” Velazquez said. “Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before I can race again, but I want to make sure I’m strong enough to compete before I get back to riding.”

Velazquez, 40, has won the last two riding titles at Saratoga and four overall. Velazquez is the second-winningest rider at Saratoga with 653 wins, 38 behind Jerry Bailey.

Velazquez suffered a broken collarbone and had some damage to his kidney as a result of the spill, which occurred when Mr. Producer, a maiden Velazquez was riding for trainer Graham Motion, broke down in midstretch of the ninth race at Churchill Downs.

A week before the spill Velazquez won the Belmont Stakes aboard Union Rags, who is scheduled to make his next start in the $1 million Haskell Invitational on July 29 at Monmouth Park. It is expected that Velazquez would be back to riding by then.

This year, Velazquez has won 107 races from 531 mounts and he ranks fourth in the country in purse money won with $8,071,257.

Velazquez, a two-time Eclipse award winner, ranks third all-time on the earnings list among riders with $267,567,658 and is 32nd all-time in wins with 4,828.

Velazquez was elected into racing’s Hall of Fame and will be formally inducted on Aug. 10 in a ceremony in Saratoga.

– David Grening