Did Kentucky Derby Winner Turn Down White House Invitation?

The great thing about this joke is that you can repeat it every year, regardless of who is in the White House.

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Claim

Kentucky Derby winner John Velazquez turned down an invitation to the White House, saying: "If I wanted to see a horse’s ass, I would have finished second."

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Origin

In April 2021, a rumor started to circulate on Facebook that the winning jockey in the Kentucky Derby, John Velazquez, had turned down an invitation to visit the White House and had called U.S. President Joe Biden a “horse’s ass.”

This is not a genuine quote from Velazquez and the Kentucky Derby winner did not turn down an invitation to the White House. 

Velazquez, who rode Medina Spirit to his second consecutive Kentucky Derby victory (his fourth overall), spoke to the media after his victory on May 1, 2021. Velazquez talked strategy, his place in history (he’s now in third place on the all-time win list for jockeys), and what it was like winning a Derby at the age of 49. As far as we can tell, the subject of politics was never broached. 

Velazquez said:

“I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d win four Derbys … I never look at numbers. … I just want to come and do my job. I want to come and do the best job I can do for the people that I’m working with. I take pride in what I do and I’m very blessed in the opportunities that I’ve been given.

[…]

“Strategy was very simple: Break out of there and try to go to the lead … If someone wanted to go faster than me, let them have it. The more I looked at the race, the more I studied the race, I knew he was faster than the other horses, especially the way he breaks out of the gate.”

While championship teams are often invited to the White House, it doesn’t appear that this tradition extends to Derby winners. We found several reports about presidents (or former presidents) attending the horse race in Kentucky, but we were not able to find any record of Derby winners’ attending a celebration at the White House. (If it has happened before, it certainly isn’t an annual tradition). In other words, it’s difficult to turn down an offer that was never extended.

The quote, too, is a work of fiction. In fact, a nearly verbatim joke circulated in 2018 about a jockey’s refusal to visit then-President Donald Trump at the White House:

In breaking news, Triple Crown winner Justify has turned down an invitation to White House. When asked why he answered, “If I wanted to see a horse’s ass, I would have finished second.”

In addition to there being no record of Velazquez making this remark, the winning jockey’s agent confirmed to The Associated Press that this quote was fake. 

Ron Anderson, Velazquez’s agent, said: “This is ridiculous … In a million, zillion years, Johnny would not say that about anything or anyone.”