03/10/2010 1:00AM

Velazquez picks up World Cup mount


John Velazquez has picked himself up a Dubai World Cup ride in the shape of Crowded House. Velazquez will replace Jamie Spencer on the colt, a Rainbow Quest 4-year-old who was most recently a half-length second to Allybar in Round 2 of the 1 3/16-mile, Group 3 Maktoum Challenge at Meydan on Feb. 18.

England-based trainer Brian Meehan made the announcement Wednesday morning on his website, where he said, "This is no reflection on Jamie, as he will be riding Crowded House again when he returns to Europe. The World Cup is an American-style race run on an American-style track, and connections feel that an American jockey would suit him better on this occasion." Sixth in last year's Epsom Derby and the winner of the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy as a 2-year-old, Crowded House is owned in part by an American, J. Paul Reddam.

He is currently 16-1 for the World Cup with William Hill, which lists Gio Ponti as its 11-2 favorite, with Vision d'Etat at 6-1, Twice Over 7-1, Gitano Hernando 8-1, Red Desire 10-1, and Gloria de Campeao 20-1.

The Eric Libaud-trained Vision d'Etat, who has never run on a synthetic surface, and the Henry Cecil-trained Twice Over will both be making their seasonal debuts in the $10 million race on March 27, when they will also be meeting Richard's Kid and Life Is Sweet.

A comparison of top Racing Post Ratings of the leading World Cup contenders casts the Americans in a good light. Gio Ponti got a 115 for his runner-up finish in the Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup Turf, compared with a lifetime best of 127 in the Breeders' Cup Classic. The following Racing Post Ratings are for 2010 best and lifetime best, respectively: Richard's Kid (117-122), Gloria de Campeao (117-117), Gitano Hernando (115-122), Crowded House (115-120), Red Desire (113-117), Life Is Sweet (109-119). Unraced this year, Vision d'Etat's best rating is 124 on turf. Twice Over's is 125 in the Breeders' Cup Classic.