12/18/2013 7:12PM

Velazquez hopes to begin exercising horses next month

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Barbara D. Livingston
Doctors have cleared John Velazquez to begin physical therapy, the first step in his recovery after his spleen was removed in early November.

ROSLYN, N.Y. - Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, injured in a spill at the Breeders’ Cup on Nov. 2, has been cleared to start physical therapy and hopes to begin exercising horses in the morning within the next month.

“Hopefully, by mid-January I can get on horses in the morning. That’s what I’m hoping,” Velazquez said Wednesday. “It all depends how [quickly] I get my strength back.”

Velazquez did not speculate on when he could start riding races again.

Velazquez, 42, had to have his spleen removed after he was thrown from his mount, Secret Compass, during the running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita. He remained in a Southern California hospital for five days and then spent an additional five days in California before returning to New York on Nov. 12.

Velazquez, who attended Wednesday’s meeting of the New York Task Force on Jockey Health and Safety of which he is a member, said he was given clearance by his doctors on Tuesday to begin physical therapy. Velazquez was scheduled to leave for south Florida on Friday with his family and said he will meet with doctors there and hopes to start therapy right after the holidays. Velazquez, who will remain in Florida for the winter, said he was unsure what the physical therapy would entail.

“I don’t know. This is all new to me. Whatever they want me to do,” said Velazquez, who looked much healthier and was moving better than he did at the Nov. 18 Task Force meeting. “Obviously, I was cut up in the middle. I’m assuming they want to build up my strength and my muscles again. The whole thing [at the beginning] was they didn’t want me to overdo anything and get hernias and I’d have to get another surgery.”

Velazquez said when he met with doctors on Tuesday in New York, one said to him, “You look like you’re ready to do something.” “I said, ‘I was ready a week ago.’ ”

Velazquez said the improvement he has made in the last two weeks “has been drastic.”

Velazquez said that when he does return to race-riding, he will likely accept only a limited number of mounts per day, like he did two summers ago when he returned from a fractured collarbone during the Saratoga meet.

“I’ll have to. I don’t know if I’m going to be fit enough to ride that many horses,” Velazquez said. “I think it’s safe anyway that way. I like to give every horse I ride 110 percent. I don’t want to go out there and ride three horses and the fourth horse I’m dead.”

Despite missing the last two months of the year, Velazquez will finish 2013 with the most graded stakes victories (37) among North American riders. He is currently second in total stakes wins (54) behind only Javier Castellano (63). Velazquez’s purse earnings of $19,364,851 will rank third in North America behind only Castellano and Joel Rosario.