Velazquez Sweeps Through Sunday

Velazquez sweeps New York Stallion Stakes on five-win day

Jockey John Velazquez swept all three stakes at Aqueduct on Sunday, including the two New York Stallion S. divisions, en route to a five-win day at the Jamaica, New York, venue.

The veteran rider got the day started in style by piloting SOUPER SPECTACULAR (Giant's Causeway), a half-brother to Zenyatta (Street Cry [Ire]), to a neck decision in a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance/optional claimer. The win enabled the three-year-old colt to keep his record on turf perfect.

Next up, Velazquez guided STRIKE THE MOON (Malibu Moon) to a front-running, 2 1/4-length decision in the 2ND race. The bay lass finished up the seven-furlong maiden race in 1:23 4/5 while making just her second career start. Previously, the juvenile miss had run second by a nose in an October 25 Delaware Park maiden.

Velazquez's next three wins would come in the three stakes scheduled for Sunday's program.

First up in the $75,000 Staten Island division of the New York Stallion S. for fillies and mares, BIG BROWNIE (Wheelaway) rallied strongly along the inside and went on to a 5 3/5-length victory over We Need V L T's (Freud). The four-year-old chestnut sat fourth early on as 1-5 favorite Mother Russia (Mayakovsky) led the field of six through fractions of :22 4/5 and :46 3/5. Turning for home, Velazquez sent Big Brownie through an opening on the rail and she responded with a powerful late kick that carried her to the wire in 1:22 4/5 for the seven-furlong test.

'That was perfect,' Velazquez said. 'She was brave enough to squeeze through and when I asked her, she responded right away. You have to have the horse to do that, and it worked out well.'

In snapping a four-race losing streak, Big Brownie earned her first stakes win while improving her record to 13-3-4-2, $140,484.

'I've only had her a few weeks -- (former trainer Peter Pugh) was leaving for Florida and as she is a New York-bred, the smart thing seemed to be leaving her here for the winter,' said Leah Gyarmati, who also owns part of the filly with Wide Rill Farm. 'I breezed her once since her last race, and kind of coasted into this.'

After finishing in a dead-heat for fifth in the 4TH race and without a mount in the 5TH race, Velazquez was back to his winning ways in the 6TH race, when favored UNBRIDLED HUMOR (Distorted Humor) got up by a nose to win the $60,000 Memories of Silver overnight stakes. The gray filly drew into the field from the also-eligible list to move her record to a perfect three-for-three in this mile turf affair, which she completed in 1:38 1/5 on the firm grass.

The Graham Motion-trained sophomore's first two starts came as a 2 1/2-length win against maiden rivals at Saratoga on September 5 and a five-length romp in an October 13 allowance at Keeneland. She's now earned $91,620 from her three starts.

Velazquez missed by a half-length when second in the 7TH race, but picked up his fifth winner, and third stakes victory, of the day when DRIVEN BY SUCCESS (Precise End) prevailed after dueling with General Maximus (Freud) in the seven-furlong, $73,500 Thunder Rumble division of the New York Stallion S., the day's 8TH race.

The five-year-old gelding, who captured the Vic Ziegel Memorial S. in August and is multiple Grade 1-placed from last year, hounded pacesetter General Maximus through an opening quarter-mile in :22 2/5 and a half-mile in :44 2/5 as the pair opened up by six lengths on the rest of the field. Rounding the turn, Driven by Success ranged up alongside the favorite and after a short battle, took command with 220 yards to go, hitting the wire in 1:21 3/5 while 3 1/4 lengths clear for trainer Todd Pletcher.

'He was my first stakes winner and will always have a special place in my heart,' owner Mike Repole said of Driven by Success. 'Whenever he races it means so much to me. This win means he deserves to be the top New York-bred sprinter this year.'

The win also boosted the chestnut's career earnings to $525,719 and his line now reads 25-8-4-5.

'It was basically a two-horse race, so the only one I had to worry about was General Maximus and I needed to put a bit of pressure on him,' Velazquez said. 'Driven by Success broke well enough that I was right next to him.

'It's a great day for me,' the 38-year-old reinsman added. 'I don't get one of these that often anymore, so I'm very happy today!'

Velazquez also rode five winners on August 21 at Saratoga en route to his fourth Spa riding title. He is one of three riders to win five races in a single day on the NYRA circuit this year, with Ramon Dominguez piloting five winners at Aqueduct on February 17, and Javier Castellano accomplishing the feat on July 25 at Saratoga.

With seven victories at Aqueduct through the close of racing on Sunday, Velazquez is now fourth in the jockey standings behind David Cohen, who has ridden nine winners, and Ramon Dominguez and Jose Lezcano, tied with eight.



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