John Velasquez to be 2012 Bill Hartack Foundation honoree

Bill Hartack at Woodbine Racetrack in 2007

The Bill Hartack Charitable Foundation announced that Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida will host the organization’s annual event. The Foundation’s annual presentation of the Bill Hartack Memorial Award honors the memory and lifetime achievements of Bill Hartack, one of only two jockeys to win the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs five times.

John Velazquez, the winning jockey aboard 2011 Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom, will receive the Bill Hartack Memorial Award. With family, friends and industry colleagues at his side, Velazquez will be presented the award on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 in the Gulfstream Park winner’s circle following the running of the tenth and final race of the day, the Bill Hartack Memorial Race.

A reception honoring Velazquez will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Ten Palms American Kitchen and Stone Crab Parlor, located on the 2nd floor of the Club House. Contributions are welcome at the door to benefit Thoroughbred racing charities. Velazquez will sign ceremonial programs commemorating the 2011 Kentucky Derby victory.

Hartack Foundation Board Member Mike Stidham acknowledged the officials of Gulfstream Park for embracing the charitable mission and partnering with the Hartack organization to recognize Johnny Velazquez’s outstanding 2011 Kentucky Derby ride.

Stidham said, “It is our privilege to work with Gulfstream Park to bring national attention to the racing industry and the extraordinarily talented and selfless Thoroughbred racing jockey. This year’s award recipient, John Velazquez, personifies skill, discipline and grace. He is an outstanding role model and a shining star in the racing industry.”

“We are pleased to partner with the Bill Hartack Charitable Foundation to celebrate and honor the skill and discipline of the Thoroughbred racing jockey and to raise philanthropic dollars for Thoroughbred racing related charities. It is our privilege to mark the outstanding achievements of Johnny Velazquez and commemorate his thrilling Kentucky Derby ride aboard Animal Kingdom,” said President and General Manager of Gulfstream Park, Tim Ritvo. He emphasized that the Gulfstream Park family strives to provide the finest racing in the country, as well as recognize and give back to outstanding individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the Thoroughbred racing industry.

Bill Hartack avoided the limelight after his retirement from riding. He served as a steward at racetracks in his final years. Kentucky Derby Tours had been talking with Bill for years about participating in the ‘Gallop to Glory’ exhibit honoring Kentucky Derby winning jockeys at the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky. After a very pleasant trip to Canada for the Queen’s Plate in 2007, Bill had agreed to be part of the exhibit and place his signature in cement in 2008. We were very saddened when Kentucky Derby Tours heard that Bill had passed away in November, 2007. He was definitely a jockey who deserved many more accolates that he received in his lifetime. A horse racing legend gone too soon!