Danny Velazquez, trainer of New York-bred Kentucky Derby hopeful Brooklyn Strong, said he is lucky to be alive after being involved in a horrific accident at Parx Racing last Saturday.
Velazquez was on his pony, Tequila, leading a horse onto the track for training, when a loose horse in full stride slammed into him from behind, causing the pony to flip and throw Velazquez to the track.
The 37-year-old trainer suffered a lacerated liver, torn bicep, concussion, swollen chest and “was banged up pretty bad,” he said. He was taken to Jefferson Health in Northeast Philadelphia and released Sunday evening.
“I’ve been on the racetrack my whole life and this was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” said Velazquez. “It happened so fast, there was no siren (to warn of a loose horse). He hit me full force from behind. It was horrific.”
Sadly, neither Velazquez’ pony nor the loose horse, a Richie Vega trainee, survived the accident.
“It was just a freak accident,” said Velazquez, who rode 2,286 races from 2001-‘05. “I was in spills as a jockey, but this was the craziest thing ever. He was going as fast as a racehorse can go. I didn’t even know what hit me.”
Brooklyn Strong, who was sidelined by an illness after winning the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct Dec. 5, returned to the work tab at Parx Feb. 26. He worked again on March 6 and Velazquez was ready to watch him work again Saturday. As it turned out, he was in an ambulance when Brooklyn Strong covered 5 furlongs in 1:01.13.
“That was my weekend,” said Velazquez, who is preparing the gelding for a start in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial April 3. A win would put him in the Derby and the 40 points for finishing second, combined with the 10 he earned for the Remsen, would very likely earn him a trip to Louisville on the first Saturday in May.
“He was ready to go into training in February and the weather and track conditions set us back,” said Velazquez, who also trains 3-year-old filly Laobanonaprayer, who won two New York-bred stakes as a 2-year-old. “He wasn’t going to be ready for the Gotham (March 6), but he’s made every work so far.”
Velazquez, a Mid-Atlantic-based trainer who has a 5-5-5 record from 24 starts at NYRA tracks as a trainer, hopes to get two more works and possibly a blowout into Brooklyn Strong before the Wood. He’d prefer to be on his feet to watch them.