Jockey John Velazquez celebrates atop Always Dreaming #5 after winning the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 6, 2017 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
By NAN Sports Editor
News Americas, Louisville, KENTUCKY, Sun. May 7, 2017: On Saturday afternoon, before over 130,000 spectators gathered at Churchill Downs and millions more watching on television, Caribbean-born jockey, John Velazquez, won the 2017 Kentucky Derby on the horse Always Dreaming, the 9-2 co-favorite. Here are seven things you should know about this Latino jockey:
1: The win on Saturday May 6, 2017 was Velazquez’s second Derby win. He also won the Derby on May 7, 2011 and is known for his cool riding manner and “nerves-of-steel.”
John Velazquez rides Always Dreaming to victory in the 143 running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchhill Downs on May 6, 2017. (Jason Szenes image)
2: Velazquez, nicknamed “Johnny V,” was born in Carolina in the Caribbean, US territory of Puerto Rico. He learned to ride in his native land and attended a jockey school for a year and a half. In 1990, he won his first race, aboard Rodas at El Nuevo Comandante racetrack in Canóvanas, Puerto Rico and later that year moved to New York State and obtained guidance from leading jockey Angel Cordero Jr. Richie.
3: Velazquez initially lived with Cordero and later said that he learned to speak English by watching The Little Mermaid with Cordero’s daughter for 2 1⁄2 months. In 1998, Cordero became his agent. His first US stake was won in 1990 at the Aqueduct Racetrack.
4: In 2004, Velazquez earned his 3,000th win aboard Runningforpresident on July 29 at Saratoga, the same date that Saratoga was holding “John Velazquez Bobblehead Doll Day.”
5: But on April 20, 2006, Velazquez was seriously injured in a fall at Keeneland racetrack, suffering a fractured shoulder blade, two broken ribs, a bruised sternum and a slightly injured right lung. He was originally expected to miss five months, but was able to return for the Belmont Stakes in June, in which he finished second.Later that year, he was elected to the Puerto Rico Horse Racing Hall of Fame. In 2009, Velazquez was awarded the Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award by his fellow jockeys in recognition of his career and personal character. At that time, he had already earned 24 racing titles at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga.
6: Velazquez recently made headlines when he became the highest paid jockey of all time, breaking the record held by retired American jockey, Pat Day. He is the first rider to ever eclipse $300 million in earnings, due to his victorious race at the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes on We Miss Arlie. According to What Net Worth, Velazquez makes about $2 million each month. To date, he’s ridden for more than 5,000 winners.
7: Velazquez, 46, is married to Leona O’Brien, daughter of Trainer Leo O’Brien and they have two children: a daughter named Lerina, and a son, Michael Patrick.