DEL MAR, Cal. — What does a Hall of Fame jockey do when Belmont is closed, Aqueduct is not yet open and the Breeders' Cup is three days away?
Jockey John Velazquez headed for Del Mar Turf Club and tuned up for his Breeders' Cup engagements with a winning ride aboard Vivianne Ray and Kate Rose's Master Merion in the $101,840-added Let It Ride Stakes, the feature on the opening day of the seaside track's Big Crosby fall meeting.
In his only ride of the afternoon, Velazquez piloted Master Merion to a one length win over six rivals in the one mile turf test for the 3-year-old gelding's third straight win spread completely across the continent.
After breaking his maiden at Belmont in September, trainer Wesley Ward shipped him to Kentucky Downs where he won the Franklin Simpkins Stakes.
The Let It Ride win was the British-bred's third from seven starts with three other in-the-money finishes. The Del Mar purse payment raised his earnings to $307,190.
Velazquez, who started his mainland riding career under the tutelage of Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero at the New York Racing Association tracks in 1990, and Master Merion attended the Let It Ride pace set early on by Holiday Stone and later by Kitten's Cat.
After the race, Velazquez said he was in no hurry to get to the front. “I'd been told that he would make the lead and then wait for horses,” he said.
The veteran rider sent his charge to the lead in the upper stretch, improved his position passing the 16th pole and crossed the line a one length winner over Harbour Master and Kent Desormeaux. Kitten's Kat and Julien Leparoux were another 1-3/4 lengths back in third.
Master Merion stopped the timer in 1:35.00 on a firm turf course.
Velazquez' real reason for traveling to California begins Friday afternoon when he climbs aboard StarLadies Racing's Orbolution in the $1 million, Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.
He also had Breeders' Cup rides on Friday on Hemp Hemp Hooray in the Juvenile Turf and Forever Unbridled in the Longines B.C. Distaff.
His Saturday Breeders' Cup rides will be aboard Stainless in the Juvenile Fillies, Lady Aurelia against the makes in the Turf Sprint, Calculator in the Sprint, World Approval in the Mile, Hazit in the Juvenile and Bigger Picture in the Turf.
A win with any one of those horses will the 14th in Breeders' Cup competition for the rider known to his legion of fans as “Johnny-V.”
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