Belmont winner Velazquez spills, breaks collarbone

Jockey John Velazquez after winning the 144th Belmont

Jockey John Velazquez after winning the 144th Belmont Stakes. (June 9, 2012) (Credit: Alejandra Villa)

A week after winning the Belmont Stakes on Union Rags, jockey John Velazquez suffered a broken right collarbone Saturday night in what became a three-horse spill at Churchill Downs.

Velazquez got up after a few minutes and was strapped to a stretcher. Track spokesman Darren Rogers said Velazquez had full mobility but complained of shoulder pain before an ambulance transported him to nearby Norton Audubon Hospital, where he spent Saturday night.

Terry Meyocks, national manager of the Jockeys' Guild, drove from Lexington to be with Velazquez. Meyocks wrote in an email to Newsday that the rider would remain hospitalized Sunday night. The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that after doctors checked blood work, Velazquez would be examined to see if surgery would be necessary.

Velazquez's wife, Leona, was en route from New York to Louisville Sunday afternoon, according to a New York Racing Association release.

Mr. Producer was in second place when he broke down and threw Velazquez hard to the dirt about 100 yards from the finish line. The horse fell into the path of Smart Farda, who also went down, unseating Manny Cruz, before Lemansky stumbled over Velazquez and threw John McKee.

Mr. Producer fractured a cannon bone and had to be euthanized on the track. He was trained by Graham Motion, for whom Velazquez won the Kentucky Derby for the first time last year on Animal Kingdom. Rogers said the other two horses were unhurt and were walked back to their barns.

McKee complained of head and neck pain and took off his final two mounts of the card. Cruz rode the next race. McKee rode one race Sunday at Churchill, and Cruz won twice at Calder in Miami.

Velazquez was hurt at about 10:15 p.m., 35 minutes after he and even-money favorite Wise Dan lost the Grade I, $437,200 Stephen Foster Handicap by a head to late-running Ron the Greek.

Velazquez, a 40-year-old native of Puerto Rico, has been one of New York's leading riders for the past 20 years. He has more than 4,800 victories, and on Aug. 10 will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs.

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