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Gulfstream Park: Johnny V is Back in the Sunshine State

When Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez got a leg up at Gulfstream Park for the track’s championship meet, it was a homecoming of sorts.

Having spent the past two winters riding in California, Velazquez decided to return this year to what he calls his “second home.”

“California, obviously, was a different opportunity,” said Velazquez, 52, who won 49 races and more than $4 million in purse money riding at Santa Anita Park’s winter meets. “It was a good experience, and the people were very good to me, but Gulfstream is my second home.”

Transitioning Turf: Velazquez’s Move from Gulfstream to California

Beginning in 1997 and until 2018, Velazquez was a fixture at Gulfstream during the winter, breaking into the top 10 in both races won (54) and money earned ($1.8 million). In 2004 and 2006, he was the track’s leading rider in both categories, his earnings didn’t dip below the $1 million mark until the winter meeting of 2020-21, when he rode 11 horses to victory from 106 starters and won $831,756.

As the winter of 2021-22 approached, the two-time Eclipse Award winner decided to move his tack to California.

“We’re kind of looking forward to a change,” Ron Anderson, the agent for Velazquez and Joel Rosario, said at the time. “(Trainer) Bob (Baffert) will obviously support us as will a lot of other trainers. We’ve already gotten a lot of interest.”

(Velazquez won the previous year’s Kentucky Derby aboard Authentic and finished first in the 2021 Derby aboard Medina Spirit).

Velazquez’s West Coast Triumph: Dominating Santa Anita’s Racing Scene

“It’s a very historic place with a lot of good racing, a lot of history, so it’s one of those places that is special,” Velazquez said of Santa Anita Park.

Velazquez, who has won six Triple Crown races (four Kentucky Derbys, one Belmont Stakes, and one Preakness), 20 Breeders’ Cup races, and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, did not shine as brightly on the West Coast as he has elsewhere.

Beginning with the winter meet of 2021-22 at Santa Anita, and through April 2023, Velazquez won more than $4.1 million, not including the Breeders’ Cup.

“The experience was something different,” he said of riding full-time in California. “I enjoyed it a lot. Guys from the east who go west don’t always get the opportunities I did.”


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