02/19/2009 1:00AM

Velazquez named Woolf Award winner


John Velazquez, a two-time winner of the Eclipse Award as champion jockey, was announced on Thursday as the 2009 winner of the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, presently annually by Santa Anita since 1950.

No date has yet been set to present Velazquez with the award, though track officials said it likely would take place in late March or early April.

The Woolf Award is voted on by members of the Jockeys' Guild. The other finalists were Gary Baze, Calvin Borel, Javier Castellano, and David Flores. It honors riders who have successful careers on the track and high personal character off the track.

Velazquez, 37, moved to New York from his native Puerto Rico in 1990 and has since won 24 riding titles at Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga. He is riding this winter at Gulfstream Park. Velazquez's biggest win came in the 2007 Belmont Stakes aboard the filly Rags to Riches. He has won more than 4,000 races, including two Breeders' Cup races in 2004, the Distaff with Ashado and the Sprint with Speightstown.

Velazquez's agent is former jockey Angel Cordero Jr., a member of the Hall of Fame. Velazquez is married to the former Leona O'Brien, daughter of New York-based trainer Leo O'Brien. They have two children.

The Woolf Award is named in honor of a Hall of Fame rider who died following an accident at Santa Anita in 1946. Woolf is perhaps best known for riding Seabiscuit in the celebrated match race with War Admiral in 1938.