John Velazquez Joins TDN Writers' Room Podcast

John Velazquez hoists the Woodlawn Vase | Jim McCue

The credit for the win in the GI Preakness S. goes to National Treasure (Quality Road), but the assist goes to Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. Able to get to the lead and then slow the pace down to a crawl, Velazquez put in a perfect ride on his way to his first ever win in the Preakness. Fresh off his victory, Velazquez joined this week's TDN Writers' Room podcast presented by Keeneland. He was this week's Green Group Guest of the Week.

“It was just one of those things that worked out perfect,” Velazquez said of his Preakness trip. “You plan it but you never dream that you'll have the trip we had.  The only thing that I was worried about…I saw Irad Ortiz (the rider of Blazing Sevens (Good Magic) warming up his horse in the post parade and I thought he was going try to get closer to the pace. If he wanted to get close to that pace, he was going to have to go fast enough to go across from me. So when I broke, I started drifting my horse out. So then when I pushed him out he started grabbing his horse back and he went backwards. I thought, 'Okay, he's out of there'. And I went right back to the inside. And that kind of slowed the pace really well.”

The race came down to National Treasure and Blazing Sevens in the stretch and National Treasure gamely held off his rival to win by a head. Velazquez and Ortiz were in close quarters the whole way and the two bumped. It sometimes seems that every time Ortiz is in a stretch battle something happens. Velazquez's thoughts on Ortiz and whether or not he too often crosses a line?

“I don't think he's a dirty rider,” Velazquez said. “I think he definitely crosses the line and does it a lot. I have talked to him many times. I try to teach him that we can be aggressive, but we have a line that we have to put in there. For him, it's hard to control. For me, I've been riding for a long time, so I always try to take the edge as much as I can, but try not to cross those lines. We all make mistakes. But I try to make as few mistakes as possible so I don't cross the line.”

Velazquez also revealed that he was almost taken off of National Treasure before the Preakness.

“I had to plead my case,” he said. “I made a few phone calls and I pleaded my case. I had to explain what happened in the Derby (where he rode Reincarnate (Good Magic), who was surprisingly close to the early pace), and I'm going to leave it at that.”

Should National Treasure start in the GI Belmont S., Velazquez thinks the mile-and-a-half will not be an issue.

“His gallop-outs are really strong every time,” he said. “He's always given me the feeling that he can do more and, obviously, he put it together in the Preakness. He put in a really good effort and his gallop out was really, really good. So I think the mile-and-a-half shouldn't be a problem. The way he gallops out, he's always giving more and more.”

Elsewhere on the podcast, which is also sponsored by Coolmore,  the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association, Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders1/st Racing, WinStar Farm, XBTV, Lane's End and West Point Thoroughbreds, Bill Finley and Randy Moss reviewed the Preakness and the incredible highs and lows Bob Baffert experienced during the day. The breakdown of Havnameltdown (Uncaptured) and the way it was covered by the mainstream media was a major topic of discussion. Finley said that it is time for the sport to take another look at synthetic surfaces, noting that horses are 3 1/2 times more likely to die in a dirt race than they are in a synthetic surface race. With the Belmont next, Moss and Finley took a look at the story of Forte (Violence) re-emerging in the Triple Crown and wondered if he will be ready for his best after what would be a 10-week layoff and some missed training time due to the bruised hoof that led to his being scratched from the Derby.

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