Angel Cordero, Jr. and John Velazquez are proof that one
rider enshrined the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame can help another
join him. Armando Ayuso and Jorge Velasquez hope lightening can strike twice.
Ayuso is an apprentice at Monmouth Park
who has Jorge Velasquez handling his book, just as Cordero is the agent for
2012 inductee John Velazquez. Jorge Velasquez, who became a Hall of Famer in
1990, was instrumental in getting the 18-year-old to come here from their
this past spring.
“Another agent in Florida
called and told me that there was a good bug boy who had graduated from the
jockey’s school in Panama,”
said Velasquez. “So I called Armando and asked if he’d be interested in working
together. I thought the Monmouth meet would be the best place for him.”
When the phone rang, Velasquez needed no introduction.
“Jorge is very well known in my country,” Ayuso said in
Spanish as he does not yet speak English. “He is one of the best riders to ever
come from there, along with Braulio Baeza, Manny Yzcaza, Laffit Pincay, Jr. and
While the young jockey might have been impressed and
honored that one of those five Panamanian Hall of Famers wanted to represent
him, there were significant others who needed to be convinced that the
arrangement would be beneficial.
“First I had to talk with Armando’s mother and tell her
that he would live in my home with me and my family. I had to convince her that
we would take good care of him,” said Velasquez. “Then I had to talk with my
wife, Margarita, and that was harder. She wasn’t too happy about it because in
the past we have had other kids I was helping with their riding careers and
they have been, let’s say, ungrateful.”
who has been married to Velasquez for more than 40 years and has three grown
children with him, wanted to support her husband and relented. It turned out
better than expected.
took him in and we gave him love,” said Velasquez, who also came to America as a
green teenager to ride. “He has become like another son to us.”
Ayuso has suffered culture shock.
the beginning it was hard to make all of the adjustments,” he said. “When I
arrived in April the weather was still cold. I didn’t really know anybody and
everything was so different and strange. It’s been a struggle, but now I’m used
to it all. I want to be the best I can so I have no time to get homesick.”
young rider recently moved in with his cousin Elvis Trujillo, who is on his way
to a second straight Monmouth leading rider title and also graduated from the
Panamanian jockey school. But Velasquez is the one he counts on for career
rode for 34 years and I think I know what to tell him about what he is doing
right and what he is doing wrong,” said Velasquez without any hesitation.
longevity of Velasquez’ career doesn’t tell the whole truth. He retired in 1997
with 6,795 wins from 40,852 mounts and he won close to 100 Grade 1 races. He
was in the irons when Pleasant Colony won the 1981 Kentucky Derby and Preakness
Stakes, and although he never won the Triple Crown, he did take two Filly
Triple Crowns aboard Chris Evert (1974) and Davona Dale (1979). Spectacular Bid,
Bold Forbes, Desert Vixen and Fort
Marcy were among his
other champion horses, but Alydar is the one with whom he’ll always be most
Alydar “the best I ever rode”, Velasquez was an integral part of what is
considered the greatest rivalry in modern Thoroughbred racing history. With a
combined total of less than two lengths, Alydar and his jockey finished second
to Affirmed in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes when
Affirmed captured the last Triple Crown in 1978.
who can yet count a single overnight stakes among his 39 wins from 305 career
starts in 2012, is paying close attention to his mentor, watching film with him
and trying to soak up as much knowledge as quickly as he can. The other riders
in the Monmouth colony have noticed.
in the room likes him because he’s a nice kid and he’s serious about this
profession,” said C.H. Marquez, Jr. “I’m happy to help him because he really
listens when you offer advice. Some young riders will look at you like, ‘who
are you to tell me anything?’ but he wants to learn and appreciates it.”
September 3, Ayuso was sixth in the Monmouth standings with 34 wins from 265
starts, and business is brisk. Trainers Kelly John Breen, Patricia Farro, Eddie
Broome, Ramon Moya, Juan Serey and Scott Volk are among those most willing to
give the apprentice a leg up.
like that he’s got Jorge Velasquez as his agent because it helps to have a Hall
of Famer schooling him,” said Breen. “The kid was pretty good when he first got
here and he’s improving steadily. He still needs to learn more about grass
riding and get more polished on the dirt, but for a young rider, he has a cool
composure about him.”
Ayuso “a natural”, Velasquez said that he is a good gate rider, has good hands,
a good seat on a horse, and patience. Still, he knows that when his charge
loses his apprentice status this month, they’ll both have to dig in deeper.
built like a jockey, is a natural light weight, and has the talent to get
horses to run for him so that will help,” said Velasquez, who also represents
2011 Eclipse Award Apprentice Jockey runner-up Ryan Curatolo. “I’ll take him to
after the Monmouth meet and we’ll have a chance to do good in the winter when
all of the big name riders are gone. But we’ll have to work harder for it to
won’t have to dust off his famed left-handed stick.
hope that when I lose the bug, I can continue winning and I’ll try my best. I
always think about the future. I want to be a good jockey for myself and for my
family,” he said. “I’m very happy when I’m on a horse, especially in the
afternoons. I love the competition, especially trying to out think and out ride
everyone else so that I can win. Jorge always reminds me to get position, save
ground, and save the horse for the end.”
hardly has to counsel John Velazquez on riding technique these days, but that
wasn’t always so.
a way, Armando and I are like Angel and Johnny,” said Velasquez. “There was a
time when Johnny stayed with him and it was very much the same. I only hope we
have the same results and one day I can see my rider go into the Hall of Fame.”
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