12/03/2004 12:00AM

Velazquez wins one for the road

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - John Velazquez had only one mount on Friday's card at Aqueduct. It was no surprise it was a winning one.

When Velazquez guided Tales of Glory ($12) to victory in the seventh race, it was Velazquez's 228th and final victory in New York this year. Velazquez, who will be this circuit's leading rider for the fourth consecutive year, is not scheduled to ride again in New York in 2004.

Velazquez, 33, was scheduled to ride at Calder on Saturday and Hollywood Park on Dec. 18. In between, he will take time off to spend time with his family before gearing up for 2005. He will be able to reflect on the best year of his 15-year career.

Velazquez has won 333 races this year, third best in the nation. His mounts have earned $22,060,756, tops in North America by nearly $4 million. Velazquez won two Breeders' Cup races this year and is in line to win his first Eclipse Award as the nation's outstanding jockey.

"Unbelievable year, very blessed," Velazquez said after winning the seventh. "A lot of things went really right for us this year. I got to give a lot of credit to Angel" - Cordero, his agent - "for doing a great job. He pretty much calls the shots. He's the one that always pushes it to another level. I'm happy just to compete. That's my whole thing. I love to compete, love to win races, love to ride good horses.''

Velazquez was the leading rider at both Belmont Park meets and Saratoga. At Saratoga, he set a record for wins with 65. Perhaps the only record Velazquez will not get this year is the single-season earnings mark. Jerry Bailey set that mark, $23,354,960, last year. Velazquez said if Cordero had his way, he would make a push for it.

"He threw it out there. He had to say something," Velazquez said. "I said, 'Angel don't even think about it, don't go there. We had a great year, let's go on vacation and enjoy our families and enjoy the moment.' "

Velazquez said he and his wife, Leona, will spend a few days by themselves to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary, which occurred last month, before taking their children on a vacation.

Galloping Grocer to winter in New York

Provided the weather is tolerable, Galloping Grocer will winter in New York as he gets ready for the Kentucky Derby, trainer Dominick Schettino said.

Schettino said Galloping Grocer would be pointed to the $75,000 Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct on Feb. 12. He would then ship to Florida for the $300,000 Fountain of Youth on March 5 before returning to New York for the $750,000 Wood Memorial on April 9.

Schettino said if the weather does get bad, he would then try to ship the horse to south Florida.

Schettino said Galloping Grocer would be in light training until early January before he begins cranking down on him again for the Whirlaway.

"He stays pretty fit," Schettino said. "He's not a robust horse. He's tall and lean and he keeps himself real fit." Galloping Grocer won his first three starts pretty easily against New York-bred company before finishing second, beaten a neck by Rockport Harbor, in the Remsen on Nov. 27.

Mathes retiring at end of January

Glen Mathes, the director of communications for the New York Racing Association since 1991, will retire from that position on Jan. 30 to pursue other interests. Mathes has worked at NYRA for 22 years.

"I just think it's a good time," Mathes, 53, said. "I'm going to move up to Saratoga and use that as a base of operation. It allows me to retain one residence, and it'll give me some time to pursue outside interests. It's not like I'm not going to work again."

Mathes said he hopes to work part-time for NYRA during busy periods such as the Belmont Stakes, Saratoga, and the Breeders' Cup, which Belmont Park will host next October.

Mathes said he has enjoyed his time at NYRA, especially working for people like Barry Schwartz and Terry Meyocks.

"I love the people here. The people that I've worked with are terrific," Mathes said.

"In that vein, I feel a little bit guilty about leaving. I've been treated well by everybody that's ever been in charge."

No replacement has been named, though Fran LaBelle, who has served as Mathes's assistant, is the leading candidate.

Jockeys, horses unscathed in spill

Three apprentice jockeys and their mounts all escaped serious injury despite a scary-looking spill in Friday's opener.

Pedro Monterrey Jr. appeared to be seriously hurt after his mount, Prince Peapa, clipped heels with Greatlengths U S A, unseating Monterrey, who was then stepped on by Fifteen Wall, who fell and unseated Eriluis Vaz. Know the Judge fell over Prince Peapa, unseating Oscar Gomez.

Vaz, who was involved in a spill on Thursday, and Gomez got up immediately. Monterrey was taken off the track on a stretcher and taken to Jamaica Hospital, complaining of back, neck and shoulder pain. X-rays came back negative.

None of the horses was injured.

Greatlengths U S A, ridden by apprentice Rajiv Maragh, finished fourth, but was disqualified by the stewards and placed last.

Migliore, Chavez chasing 4,000

Jockeys Richard Migliore and Jorge Chavez are in pursuit of 4,000 career victories. Entering the weekend, both riders had 3,973 wins.

Migliore, 40, is currently sidelined with a fractured wrist and is planning to return on New Year's Day. He will remain in New York this winter, making trips to Florida on an as-needed basis.

Chavez, 43, rode one race at Calder on Friday, finishing fifth aboard Prohibido Olividar. Chavez is expected to ride this winter in south Florida.