As he does customarily, John Velazquez came off the track at Pimlico Race Course, weighed himself and breezed past media en route to the jockey room.
It wasn’t until a TV reporter went into the room to get him that he learned he had won Friday’s Xpressbet Hall of Fame Jockey Challenge as part of Black-Eyed Susan Day.
“We ran all four already?” Velazquez asked.
The 42-year-old jockey won the event that featured seven of the eight active Hall of Fame jockeys — Mike Smith, Edgar Prado, Calvin Borel, Russell Baze, Kent Desormeaux and Alex Solis being the others.
But Velazquez was a little out of sorts after heavy rain showers carried into Friday morning and resulted in 27 scratches across Races 2, 4, 6 and 8, which made up the challenge.
Because of all the scratches, the wager was canceled and the $50,000 purse was split, each jockey receiving $7,142.86.
Riders earned points based on where they finished among the field of Hall-of-Famers. Velazquez rode three out of the four races, finishing with 27 points. Desormeaux, who also rode three races, finished in second place with 22 points.
Baze and Solis finished in a tie for third with 12 points. Prado tallied six points for fifth place, Borel claimed three points for sixth and Smith failed to saddle a horse in any of the races.
“It would have been a lot more fun if everybody had an opportunity to ride in the races,” said Velazquez, the youngest of the seven jockeys. “But, we can only deal with what Mother Nature throws at us.”
Lady Legends comes to an end
As the contending jockeys lined up for a photo after the fifth Lady Legends for the Cure, it was all smiles and laughs, despite the implication of the race.
Eventually, Patti Cooksey let out a sigh as the realization set in that Friday marked the final such race, which features retired female jockeys and is geared at spreading breast cancer awareness. The race is ending because of the physical strain preparation was putting on the retired jockeys.
“A sad day,” said Cooksey, a breast survivor and the first female jockey to ride in the Preakness.
Cooksey was one of three jockeys, along with Cheryl White and Andrea Seefeldt Knight, from the original race in 2010 who returned to Pimlico for the eight-horse finale Friday.
Seefeldt Knight claimed first place aboard Zuerstgold in the six-furlong $52,000 allowance race, winning a $29,640 prize. Starting in the No. 1 post position, Seefeldt Knight was next to last for the majority of the race but battled through the traffic to edge Stacie Clark-Rogers, who saddled Graced to a second place finish.
Riding Big Blue, Tami Purcell took third.
Seefeldt Knight said her sister-in-law Danica Roki Seefeldt, who went in for a lumpectomy Thursday, was the only thing on her mind at the start of the race.
“I was dedicating today to her,” she said. “When I thought I might get there, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to win.’ There’s nothing like it.”
For the first time this year, Pimlico partnered with the local affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization and Baltimore’s Suited To Succeed for “The Ultimate Girls Day Out.”
“As a 12, almost 13-year survivor, it’s meant everything to me,” Cooksey said. “Because what it represents is breast cancer awareness. It’s sad it’s the last year, but I think it’s brought about awareness, and that’s all we can ask for.”
Ben’s Cat wins McKay again
Ben’s Cat has proven he owns the Jim McKay Turf Sprint.
The Maryland-bred horse won the $100,000 race for the third time in its ninth running Friday after rain moved the five-furlong race from turf to dirt. The field was whittled to five because of scratches.
Bred, owned and trained by King T. Leatherbury, the 8-year-old Ben’s Cat now has 26 career wins, 21 in stakes competition.
“We say it every year, ‘he’s better than ever.’ How long can we say that?” Leatherbury said. “How long can we keep going like this? [Age] 9? 10? 11? It’s hard to believe. He’s a remarkable, amazing horse.”
Friday’s victory thrusts Ben’s Cat ahead of Little Bold John to seventh on the all-time earnings list of Maryland-bred horses with $1,967,790.
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