Gulfstream jockey colony filled with top talent

At 10h45, on November 30, 2023 By GULFSTREAM

Hall of Fame and champion jockey John Velazquez says he’s returning to his “second home.”

Velazquez, who spent the past two winters riding primarily in California, will return to South Florida to ride at Gulfstream Park’s Championship Meet and join one of the world’s most competitive and talented riding colonies.

The Championship Meet, which begins Friday, will not only be playing host to Velazquez but Irad Ortiz Jr., leading jockey at the Championship Meet four of the past five years, five-time leading rider Javier Castellano, three-time leading rider Luis Saez, Tyler Gaffalione, Paco Lopez, and several newcomers including Sean Levey and Oisin Murphy from Europe, Vincent Cheminaud, and Chris Emigh. Popular Joe Bravo is also returning after spending several of the past winters in California.

Velazquez, leading rider during the Championship Meet twice, says returning to South Florida is also a return to a “normal routine.”

“California, obviously, was a different opportunity,” Velazquez said. “The experience was something different. I enjoyed it a lot. I was given a lot of opportunity because guys from the east who go west don’t always get the opportunities I did. It was a good experience, and the people were very good to me, but Gulfstream is my second home after New York.”

Velazquez will begin riding the weekend of Dec. 8. Defending riding champ Irad Ortiz Jr. will begin riding Dec. 6. Jose Ortiz, who will be honored with a bobblehead in his likeness during the Championship Meet, will begin riding Friday.

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