John Velazquez: Winning Jockey Cements His Legacy as a Belmont Legend

Ethan GrantAnalyst IJune 9, 2012

Velazquez (right) is now a two-time Belmont Stakes winner
Velazquez (right) is now a two-time Belmont Stakes winnerRob Carr/Getty Images

John Velazquez has joined an elusive group of jockeys by winning the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, jockeying his second career victory at the event on the back of Union Rags.

There are only nine jockeys who have more career wins than he at the Belmont Stakes, headlined by six-time winners Jim McLaughlin and Eddie Arcaro.

Even so, he's struck gold now twice at the event, and wasn't even supposed to jockey Union Rags originally. It was his first time riding the horse (via The New York Times), and he'll likely wish he was in the saddle at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness after this win.

But for now, his success at the Belmont is what matters most.

Velazquez had success in 2007, when he was riding Rags to Riches to the first filly victory in over a century.

His victory that day was in similar fashion, by a head and with a photo finish, but he was in the position Mike Smith and Paynter were in today as Union Rags made the push down the inside to grab the win at Belmont.

He's given the Belmont Stakes two of its greatest finishes in recent memory. In 2007, a filly grabbed the title for the first time since 1905, holding off a late push in a way that Paynter wasn't able to do today.

Now, after the drama surrounding the loss of Triple Crown threat I'll Have Another and many tempted to lose interest in the running after the announcement, he gave the crowd and horse racing fans everywhere reason to believe that the sport is more than the elusive three-win season.

The comeback down the final furlong was a great one by Union Rags, and Velazquez got to soak in the the glory of another Belmont in a similar fashion that he did in 2007.

He's already joined the Puerto Rico Horse Rider Hall of Fame, but now he can add his name to the list of those who jockeyed their way to multiple wins on the track. "Johnny V," as he's known in the racing community, has etched his name in racing lore, whether it was on the heels of losing the Triple Crown contender or not.