John Velazquez has his sights set on another Kentucky Derby win this weekend. The Hall of Famer will be riding Always Dreaming at this year’s 143rd Derby, and is one of the most decorated riders in the race.
Read on to learn more about 45-year-old jockey John R. Velazquez’s net worth.
1. He’s the Highest-Paid Jockey in History
In 2014, Velazquez became the leading money-earning jockey in the history of horse racing.
He’s also the first rider to ever eclipse $300 million in earnings, due to his victorious race at the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes on We Miss Arlie. Velazquez has won thirteen Breeders’ Cups, three Triple Crown races, and in 2004 and 2005, he received the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey.
In 2003, American Hall of Fame jockey Jerry D. Bailey set the record for national earnings. In 2005, Velazquez surpassed him.
2. He’s Earned Over $307 Million Over the Course of His Career
Velazquez has earned $307 million over the course of his career, according to Derby Crazy.
In 1995, he won his first Grade I stakes race at the Turf Classic Invitational in Belmont. One year later, he took home the title at Aqueduct and rode his first Eclipse Award winner. The winning streak continued after that, with wins at the first five races at Saratoga in 1998. He secured his 3,000th win in 2004, at Saratoga.
3. He Won the Kentucky Derby in 2011
While jockeys earn significantly less than the owners of the winning horses, the amount they put in their pocket is no small feat. When American Pharoah took home the Derby win in 2015, he was said to have made $1.24 million, with most of that going to the owner and 10% going to the jockey.
In 2011, the purse was $1.41 million with 10% going to the jockey. After securing his win, John Velazquez chose to share his earnings with Robby Albarado, who was bumped from the Derby due to health reasons.
This year’s purse, according to Sporting News, is $2 million, with $1.24 million going to the winner.
4. He Reportedly Makes Around $24 Million a Year
According to What Net Worth, Velazquez makes about $2 million each month. To date, he’s ridden for more than 5,000 winners.
In 2011, Velazquez reportedly paid $10,000 to settle administrative charges after telling an ESPN analyst that his horse, Life At Ten, was not warming up to the track in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at Churchill Downs. According to Paulick Report, Velazquez never mentioned anything to the state veterinarian or the Breeders Cup Veterinary Panel, and KHRC subsequently filed complaints against him and John Veitch, “who was told of the comments made by Velezquez on live television but also failed to notify veterinarians. Veitch also failed to have Life At Ten tested for prohibited substances after the races,” writes the outlet. The investigation reportedly found probably cause that Velazquez may have violated three racing statues by failing to speak to veterinarians, and he paid a $10,000 as a result, though he admitted to no wrongdoing.”
5. He Is Married to Leona O’Brien, Daughter of Trainer Leo O’Brien
Velazquez is married to Leona O’Brien, the daughter of famed trainer Leo O’Brien. The couple has two children: a daughter named Lerina, and a son, Michael Patrick.
According to Pop Star, the couple met in 1994, not long after Velazquez moved to the US. Leona tells the outlet, “I understood (horse racing) more than Johnny’s family… His parents had never been to the racetrack. He was the first one in his family to have anything to do with it. They would get very nervous after (setbacks) and say, ‘Oh, you should quit and come home to Puerto Rico,’ and I’d have to say, ‘No, he wants to be somebody. He could do real well as a jockey.’ I had a real good background for helping his family.”
Velazquez has acknowledged his wife’s role in his success, and still considers the place where he met her to be near and dear to his heart. “Saratoga has been a most special place for me,” he tells Jockey Talk. “Not only as a work place, but the place where I first started dating my wife, Leona. This November, we will be married 21 years.”