John Velazquez rode three winners at Saratoga Race Course on Thursday to move into a tie with the retired Jerry Bailey for most all-time at Saratoga, with 693.
Velazquez, inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame last year, scored on the impressive first-time starters Corfu in the second race and Our Amazing Rose in the fifth before tying Bailey with a win on White Rose in the sixth.
He lost on two subsequent mounts on the card.
While answering questions about the record, he repeatedly stressed that he was fortunate to ride at Saratoga at a time when the meet lasts 40 racing days.
“It’s an honor just to be named with Jerry Bailey and Angel Cordero. But it’s a different kind of category,” he said. “We have more racing days and more races. It doesn’t seem like a true record, with how many races we have. From 24 days to 40 is very different.”
Velazquez did not have a winner in the three racing days prior to Thursday.
He’s scheduled to ride five races today.
“I wasn’t thinking about records, I was thinking, ‘Let’s get the horses to run better,’ ” he said. “I come here to win races, to have a good meet. If there was a place you’d want to do well, it would be Saratoga. It’s all the best trainers and horses, so you’d like to shine here.”
Velazquez reached 693 victories with 4,204 mounts (16.5 percent). Bailey did it with 3,381 (20.5 percent), and Cordero, third on the all-time list and Velazquez’s long-time mentor, had 459 winners from 2,421 mounts (19.0 percent).
Velazquez’s wins on Corfu and Our Amazing Rose were, naturally, for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Our Amazing Rose, scratched from a maiden race on opening day, rolled to a victory by 7 3⁄4 lengths for owner Mike Repole to perhaps set herself up for the Grade I Spinaway on closing weekend.
Following a fast workout, Repole purchased Our Amazing Rose for $325,000 at the OBS March sale.
“She had actually been training with Mike Repole’s other filly, Stopchargingmaria,” Pletcher said. “It’s been kind of hard to separate them in the mornings.
“It seemed like she did everything we could have hoped of her.”
Corfu lived up to his recent workouts and the 1-5 odds he was sent off at by winning by a half-length over Pure Sensation.
The son of Malibu Moon topped the March Barretts Sale when he was purchased for $675,000 by Michael Tabor, John Magnier and Derrick Smith.
Central Banker, ridden by Joel Rosario, won the $100,000 Quick Call at 5 1⁄2 furlongs on the turf for Klaravich Stables and Shaker High graduate William Lawrence.
Central Banker stalked the pace in fifth, then busted outside coming off the turn, giving a shove to I’m Wide Awake, then heading down the middle of the track.
He won by 3 3⁄4 lengths over No Distinction while veering slightly to his right a few times in deep stretch.
“I kept him pretty busy, and we had to wait a little bit, but he won easily today,” Rosario said. “He wasn’t really tired in the stretch, he just looked around a bit.”
Clear Pasaj took the lead out of the gate and held off a hard-charging Willet by a nose to win the $100,000 Lottsa Talc for New York-breds at seven furlongs.
She has finished no worse than second in her last nine starts.
The Jonathan Sheppard-trained Martini Brother won the first steeplechase of the meet, the Jonathan Kisser Stakes, to give Sheppard at least one winner at Saratoga at every meet since 1969.
CURRENCY SWAP BACK
In today’s first race, Currency Swap returns to the track where he scored his biggest career victory, the 2011 Hopeful.
He gave Saratoga Central Catholic graduate Terri Pompay the first Grade I victory of her career as a head trainer.
Currency Swap hasn’t raced in over nine months, and hasn’t won since the Grade II Amsterdam at Saratoga almost a year ago.
“We’re basically just trying to get a good starting race into him that he could be effective in,” Pompay said. “He hasn’t run in a long time, and we’d like to get him back on track and, hopefully, run in a stake toward the end of the meet. Any allowance race is going to be tough, because that’s how they are at Saratoga, but it’s not like putting him right in a stake.”
Owned by Klaravich and Lawrence, Currency Swap has earned three of his four career wins at Saratoga.
His last race was a seventh of eight in the $300,000 Gallant Bob at Parx last September.
A week later, he had surgery to correct a breathing problem.
“After the race he ran at Philadelphia, it was evident that he was laying perfect and trying, he just had his head up and was struggling to breathe a little bit, and we decided it was time to do it,” Pompay said.
“A lot of horses can’t come back to their full potential after this surgery, but he’s doing great. He’s healthy, eating great, looks great, and doesn’t make a noise. Even last year, while it was in the process of getting paralyzed, he was making sound and we could hear it.”
The first race is a six-furlong allowance optional claimer on the main track.
Doctor Chit, second to Currency Swap in the Amsterdam last year, is the 8-5 favorite, followed by Currency Swap at 5-2.
“He’s a big, heavy kind of horse, a heavily muscled horse, so he might need the race,” Pompay said. “That’s why I was trying to find an easier spot for him, but he hasn’t shown me anything to think he won’t be where he was.”
DARLEY ENTRY FAVORED
Transparent and Romansh, a coupled entry for Darley Stable, is 5-2 on the morning line for the $100,000 Curlin today, which may serve as a prep for the Travers.
Incognito, fourth in the Belmont and pointed toward the Jim Dandy, had been the most prominent Darley 3-year-old, but foot problems will keep him out of the Jim Dandy, giving Transparent a chance to emerge as the top Travers contender for the stable.
The son of Bernardini hasn’t raced since winning by 10 3⁄4 lengths at Aqueduct in April.
“We missed a breeze or two or a race or two, and now he’s just doing really well,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.
‘NORMANDY’ ON TRACK
Normandy Invasion, fourth in the Kentucky Derby for trainer Chad Brown of Mechanicville and owner Rick Porter, got back on the Oklahoma track Thursday morning for an easy jog with a repaired right front hoof and glue-on shoes.
The Wood Memorial runner-up had been scheduled to run in the Travers, but the hoof problem cancelled his Saratoga meet.
Well-renowned hoof specialist Ian McKinlay built a supportive wall around the damaged hoof on Thursday.
“Good. He’s back jogging,” Brown said. “No immediate plans in his training schedule. We’re going to train him a few days and see how he goes. He’s got his shoes back on, and he looked good this morning.”
OLD FRIENDS EVENTS
Old Friends at Cabin Creek in Greenfield has two fundraisers scheduled, a Palace Malice Belmont victory celebration tonight and Lunch with Funny Cide on Tuesday, Aug. 6.
Fans are invited to the Washington Inn at 111 South Broadway from 6:30-8 p.m. for a Palace Malice celebration with his connections, Cot and Anne Campbell of Dogwood, along with Dogwood partner Charlie Pigg, trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Mike Smith.
Beer and wine will be served, with catering by Mama Mia’s.
Lunch with Funny Cide will take place from 12:30-3 at the farm. Besides the 2003 Kentucy Derby and Preakness winner, on hand will be owner Jack Knowlton, jockey Jose Santos, trainer Barcley Tagg and assistant Robin Smullen.
Lunch will be catered by Five Points Deli, with a $20 donation suggested.
For more information, visit www.oldfriendsatcabincreek.com.