LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A 6-year-old mare named Authenticity convinced John Velazquez he was really back in the saddle.
One day after riding for the first time since being hurt in a spill April 7, Velazquez won the $385,100 La Troienne Stakes by a head over On Fire Baby Friday at Churchill Downs. Authenticity and On Fire Baby battled for the lead throughout the Grade II stakes for fillies and mares, with Authenticity battling back along the rail in the final strides.
"I'm feeling great," the 41-year-old Hall of Famer said. "It's great to be here."
Authenticity is trained by Todd Pletcher, for whom Velazquez will ride undefeated Verrazano on Saturday in the Kentucky Derby. Velazquez suffered rib and wrist injuries last month at Belmont Park and was not cleared to return until Monday. He rode Thursday at Belmont in his comeback race, when his mount, first-time starter Armelda, broke slowly and finished last.
The lightly raced Authenticity paid $12.20 for her third win in only seven career starts. She was timed in a stakes-record 1:42.09 for 1 1/16 miles on a fast track.
"This is a huge win for us on a number of fronts," Pletcher said. "This mare has been working with Verrazano, and that goes a long way toward solidifying what he's been doing. It's also Johnny's first win back in only his second race. And we won a nice race against a good mare. So it was good, good, good."