11/20/2013 5:15PM

Velazquez intends to ride again, but uncertain when

Barbara D. Livingston
John Velazquez, who was injured when Secret Compass broke down in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, hopes to be able to ride sometime this winter at Gulfstream Park.

ROSLYN, N.Y. - Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who suffered internal injuries in a spill during the running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita, said Wednesday he definitely plans to ride again, but said there is no timetable for his return.

“There’s no doubt I’m coming back. I just don’t know when,” Velazquez said Wednesday. “I definitely will have full recovery from this. It’s just going to take a little time.”

On Nov. 2, Velazquez had his spleen removed and his pancreas repaired after he was thrown from his mount, Secret Compass, who broke down fatally midway around the far turn of the Juvenile Fillies, the first of nine Breeders’ Cup races that day at Santa Anita. Velazquez said he was then kicked in his left side by a trailing horse.

Velazquez spent five days in Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, Calif., and then an additional five days in Southern California before returning to his Long Island home on Nov. 12. Velazquez said his doctors have told him he can do “absolutely nothing” for the next four to six weeks. He is not permitted to drive until next week, he said.

“At the stage I am right now I’m doing really well. I’m healing properly,” said Velazquez, who definitely appeared to have lost weight and walked a little gingerly. “Just went to the doctor yesterday. It seems like everything’s going the right way. It’s been very slow for me. It’s been very different from times before [when injured] but I’m doing very well.”

Earlier this year, Velazquez suffered a fractured rib and sustained a chipped bone in his wrist in a spill at Aqueduct. In 2012, Velazquez sustained a broken collarbone in a spill at Churchill Downs.

On Wednesday, Velazquez spoke to two reporters following the initial meeting of the New York Task Force on Jockey Health and Safety held in a conference room at Physicians Reciprocal Insurers in Roslyn, about 12 miles from Belmont Park.

Velazquez and Ramon Dominguez, who had to retire from race-riding due to head injuries suffered in a spill at Aqueduct in January, are two of seven panel members, five of whom were appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and one each from the leaders of the Senate and Assembly. Early in 2014, this task force is expected to make recommendations to Cuomo on matters “concerning jockey benefits including health, life, disability, pension, or other similar benefits” and how or if the industry can or should pay for them.

Wednesday was believed to be Velazquez’s first public appearance since he returned from Southern California.

At the time Velazquez was injured, initial reports indicated he had hoped to return to the track to ride the later races on the Breeders’ Cup card, including Wise Dan in the Mile. Velazquez said that was not the case.

 “I was never leaving the hospital,” said Velazquez, who in late October became North America’s all-time leading rider in purse money won.

Velazquez said the paramedics in a second track ambulance that he had been placed into at Santa Anita diagnosed there were internal issues - though not necessarily to the degree that was ultimately determined - and acted quickly on his behalf.

“They accessed the problem, they went to cut my clothes off and put IVs in me right away,” Velazquez said. “They made the difference by far.”

Velazquez, who turns 42 on Sunday, said he plans to leave around the Christmas holiday for south Florida and, when permitted, do his rehabilitation down there. Velazquez typically rides at Gulfstream during the winter.