06/01/2006 11:00PM

Velazquez returns a winner


Jockey John Velazquez made a triumphant return to the saddle on Friday, guiding Mr. Sam I Am ($4.50) to a 2 3/4-length victory in a maiden turf race at Belmont.

Velazquez, winner of the Eclipse Award the last two years, had been sidelined since suffering a broken shoulder and cracked rib in a spill at Keeneland on April 20.

Velazquez had been named to ride Scat Daddy in a 2-year-old maiden race at Monmouth on Friday. But when a similar race filled for Saturday at Belmont, trainer Todd Pletcher scratched that horse. Pletcher said jockey Garrett Gomez agreed to give up the mount on Mr. Sam I Am so that Velazquez could ride.

"Just come back to do what you do and what you love the best, it just feels great and you get to win it's even better," Velazquez said.