Jockey Spotlight: Cornelio Velasquez

For over a decade, New York horseplayers have seen Cornelio Velasquez’s name near the top of the jockey standings at almost every NYRA meet. He’s won multiple riding titles at Aqueduct and won the Angel Cordero award for earning the most wins at Saratoga in 2007. Velasquez, who’s ridden over 3,000 winners in the states after a productive 10-year career in his native Panama that saw him win over 1,000 races, is noted in the New York region for his remarkable consistency.

“He’s just a solid performer, year after year,” preeminent NYRA trainer Linda Rice told the Daily Racing Form in 2013. “He tries really hard on every horse. I’ve found that to be the case for 10 years. He doesn’t try to make excuses…no ego involved; he just wants to win every race…That works well for my stable, that’s what I’m about too.”

The Velasquez/Rice partnership has been an extremely productive one; when Rice recorded a 101-win year in 2013, 50 of her 101 victories came with Velasquez in the saddle. Rice’s most productive runner in New York was the recently-retired Palace, who won two Grade I stakes in 2014 with Cornelio aboard.

Velasquez also frequently rides for David Jacobson, another top-notch trainer in the New York area.

“Cornelio…can adapt to any situation that happens out there,” Jacobson told the DRF. “I don’t classify him as good on the lead, or a good come-from-behind rider, or good on the grass, or good on the dirt. He’s just a seasoned veteran who seems to make the right moves a lot more than not.”

Velasquez and Jacobson frequently team up on Salutos Amigos, who is still a major player in the sprint division with six graded stakes wins to his credit.

And Velasquez’s success hasn’t been limited to the NYRA circuit. He’s a five-time Breeders’ Cup winner, with victories in the Sprint, Distaff, Mile, Juvenile and Marathon divisions. He was also the main rider of the recently-retired multiple graded stakes winner Moreno, who won stakes races at Saratoga, Belmont and Charles Town with Velasquez on top.

Velasquez recently moved his tack to Gulfstream Park, but he has always considered New York his home. “I like New York,” he told the DRF. “The people treat me good, the people respect me. I’m very happy to have had a big career and that the trainers have given me a lot of chances. There’s a lot of competition, but I like New York. It’s the best.”

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