Meet Starts July 22 at Saratoga
An intense 40 days of racing gets underway on Friday at Saratoga for the 148th meet at The Spa. And some of the top jockeys are ready for another strong meet as they compete for the top-rider title in upstate New York.
Hall of Fame Jockey John Velazquez, 44, has won the Saratoga riding title five times since 1998. He’s the all-time leading rider at the Spa.
“Saratoga is important for the young guys coming up,” said Velazquez. “They want to make a name for themselves.”
Velazquez is one of three jockeys in the New York riding colony to win the riding title. The other two, Javier Castellano won it in 2013 and 2014, and Irad Ortiz, Jr. won it last year.
“Everyone wants to win at Saratoga,” Ortiz said. “Everyone knows that everyone is watching.”
Velazquez’s agent is Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero, Jr, ‘The King of Saratoga.’ Cordero was obsessed with winning Saratoga titles, something he did 14 times, including 11 in a row (1976-86). In 2011, the NYRA honored the Saratoga Jockey title in Cordero’s name.
Velazquez is not likely to win this year’s title, as he doesn’t ride as many horses as the other two. However, he did win a remarkable five Grade I races at Saratoga last year, which made him the earnings leader at the meet despite riding 45 fewer races than Ortiz and 57 less than Castellano, who won the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top rider the last three years.
All three will try to hold off the favorite for this year’s meet, 22-year old Jose Ortiz, the younger brother of Irad. Jose just dominated the Belmont spring/summer meet.
You will see jockeys, even the top ones, all over backstretch at Saratoga and the Oklahoma Training Track. They will exercise more horses here than they do at Belmont, looking for any edge they can. That’s because there is more purse money on the line at Saratoga.
And on Friday, July 22 the racing action begins. Saratoga races six days a week Wednesday through Monday.