Off-design operation leads to the development of flow instabilities like vortex breakdown phenomenon which manifests as an enlarged vortex core in the draft tube at high load operating conditions. These flow instabilities are known to potentially have detrimental effects on turbine performance necessitating investigations on their formative and mitigation mechanisms. This work clarifies the evolving velocity maps characterizing vortex breakdown seen in a model Francis turbine draft tube during the transition from high load to best efficiency point. Velocity measurements have been performed inside a draft tube cone using a 2D particle image velocimetry system. Results show a wake-like velocity profile characterizing the vortex core in the draft tube cone at high load condition. The vortex core is a centrally located flow feature embodying a quasi-stagnant flow with recirculation regions. Surrounding the core, an axial outflow is seen with shear layers arising at the interface of core and outflow due to a substantial velocity gradient. Mitigation of this vortex core through a load rejection operation was further investigated. It is seen that as the flowrate approaches the best efficiency point, the shear layers between the outflow and central stagnation region break. The breakup leads to an axially dominated and streamlined flow. This is enabled by the reduction of the swirl until no central flow separation at the stagnation point occurs. The flow at the best efficiency point is thus devoid of the vortex core due to the absence of flow stagnation, the primary instability causing the core development.