LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – John Velazquez will miss the Kentucky Derby with a broken shoulder blade and cracked ribs, and could be sidelined for as long as five months.

Velazquez, who suffered the injuries during a spill at Keeneland, was set to ride Bluegrass Cat in the Derby in two weeks. Owners of the 3-year-old colt were looking for another rider.

“Our prayers have been answered that he wasn’t injured any worse,” Bill Casner, chairman of WinStar Farm, which owns Bluegrass Cat, said Friday. “It was pretty amazing that he came out of it with no more injuries than he has.”

Velazquez, one of the nation’s top jockeys who rides regularly for trainer Todd Pletcher, was injured Thursday after riding Up an Octave to victory in the Forerunner Stakes. The colt collapsed and rolled over the rider shortly after crossing the finish line. Up an Octave was euthanized.

Casner said it was too early to speculate on who might replace Velazquez, but WinStar racing manager Elliott Walden said Ramon Dominiquez was a possibility.

Velazquez, who was hospitalized overnight, was released Friday after being diagnosed with a broken right shoulder blade, bruised sternum and two cracked ribs, said Tristan Barry, Pletcher’s assistant.

He will be out three to five months and there is “absolutely no chance” of appearing in the Derby, Barry said.

About a sixteenth of a mile past the finish line in the race, Up an Octave fractured a leg. The colt threw Velazquez forward and then fell on top of him. Velazquez lay motionless for a few minutes before being put on a stretcher and taken to a first aid facility at the track. The rider was then taken by ambulance to the hospital.

“He’s in a lot of pain, but he’s more comfortable then he was last night,” Angel Cordero Jr., Velazquez’s agent, told officials at Churchill Downs.

Willie Martinez, a fellow jockey who visited Velazquez in the hospital, said injuries come with the territory.

“That’s the nature of the beast of our job,” Martinez said. “How was your day? I won the race, but I broke my shoulder and had to put my horse down.”

Velazquez, a two-time Eclipse Award winner, ranks third in purse money earned this year with $4,489,006 through Wednesday’s races. Velazquez has ridden in the Derby eight times since 1996 – his best finish was second aboard Invisible Ink in 2001.

Velazquez was an outspoken supporter two years ago of an effort among jockeys to donate 5 percent of their earnings from the Breeders’ Cup to pay medical bills for Gary Birzer, who was paralyzed in a race.

“Whenever somebody gets hurt, we try to get some guys together and get a collection to get some sort of money to the person who needs it,” Velazquez said at the time.

“But this one is a pretty severe tragedy, so we are trying to do something a little more aggressive to raise a little more money for him.”

Last month, the Kentucky House approved a measure that would provide workers’ compensation benefits for thoroughbred jockeys seriously injured in a race. Gov. Ernie Fletcher has pushed for the coverage and Congress also is considering it.

AP-ES-04-21-06 1729EDT