Racing Spotlight: Frank's Rockette, John Velazquez, Mike Maker
Racing Spotlight is a weekly series that highlights a horse, jockey, and trainer with insightful information to help our players be informed.
This week, we highlight Frank’s Rockette, a filly with a 13-7-5-0 record who returns to graded stakes action Saturday; John Velazquez, who continues his dominance in several categories; and Mike Maker, who renews his turf success.
Horse spotlight: Frank’s Rockette
Frank’s Rockette seeks to rise again in the Winning Colors S. (G3) at Churchill Downs on Saturday. The filly’s solid career record includes seven wins and five second-place finishes from 13 starts.
She began her four-year-old season competing in a pair of listed stakes at Oaklawn Park, the home track of owner and breeder Frank Fletcher. In January, she won the American Beauty by 1 1/4 lengths, and in the Carousel, a race on the Arkansas Derby (G1) undercard, she bumped with the winner soon after the start, was a contender, but ultimately fell short by three-quarters of a length.
Her only race outside of the top two was an 11th place finish in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), won by Whitmore. Leading up to the championship series, she won two Grade 2s: the Prioress at Saratoga and the Gallant Bloom H. at Belmont.
Her career began in 2019 when she won her first start, a maiden special weight at Churchill Downs, by a commanding 8 3/4 lengths. Later in the year, she finished second in the Spinaway at Saratoga and the Frizette at Belmont, both Grade 1 contests.
She is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, who won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer in 1995, 1996, and 2011. Owner Fletcher is an Arkansas entrepreneur who owns car dealerships and restaurants and co-hosts an annual kick-off banquet for the Oaklawn meet. He includes the name Rocket in all of his horses in honor of his pet dog.
The six-horse field in the Winning Colors includes Sconsin, a Grade 2 winner who finished second to Gamine in her last start, the Derby City Distaff (G1), on Kentucky Derby day.
Jockey spotlight: John Velazquez
John Velazquez, North American racing’s all-time leader in purse earnings and graded stakes victories, added two more Grade 3s to his resume last weekend at Pimlico with wins in the Miss Preakness and the Allaire DuPont Distaff. Velazquez, 49, has over 700 graded stakes wins, over 200 Grade 1 wins, and has earned almost $437 million in purses.
This Preakness weekend duo brings his total to 10 graded stakes wins in 2021, a number he has surpassed in each of the past 20 years of racing. Earlier this month, he became the eighth jockey in 147 years to sweep the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Kentucky Derby, making a trip to the Churchill Downs winner’s circle on Friday with Malathaat and with Medina Spirit on Saturday. He’s also scored Grade 1 wins on Channel Cat in Belmont’s Man o’ War and Gamine in the Derby City Distaff.
Right now, his 2021 stats mirror his career stats: he has won at an 18% rate and finished in the trifecta 46% of the time.
Velazquez, who came to the United States from Puerto Rico in 1990, received the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey twice and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. He also won the Kentucky Derby with Authentic in 2020, Always Dreaming in 2017, and Animal Kingdom in 2011, and has earned riding titles at Aqueduct, Saratoga, and Keeneland.
Trainer spotlight: Mike Maker
In 2021, Mike Maker continues to make moves on the turf. He has more wins on the surface (50) than any other North American trainer, and Chad Brown is in second place with 37. Maker topped the turf rankings in 2013, 2014, and 2020, and he came in second to Brown from 2015 to 2019. This year, Maker has finished in the top three at 49%.
However, Maker also succeeds on dirt. This past weekend at Pimlico, he picked up three graded wins on dirt and one—the Dinner Party (G2)—on turf, where Somelikeithotbrown set a course record. The dirt wins came with Army Wife in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2); Last Judgment in the Pimlico Special (G3); and the Maryland Sprint (G3) with Special Reserve.
One of his most successful horses was Zulu Alpha, winner of the 2020 Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1).
Maker grew up in Michigan, where his father, George Maker, trained at Hazel Park and Detroit Race Course. He bought his first horse when he was 13 with money he earned delivering newspapers.
Maker worked as an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas before going out on his own in 2003. The 52-year-old has won training titles at Churchill, Keeneland, Kentucky Downs, Turfway, and Ellis Park.