Friday, March 27, 2015


Gulfstream Florida Derby


Castellano To Ride All 14 Races Florida Derby Day


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – For a guy who wasn’t even supposed to be in South Florida on Saturday, jockey Javier Castellano is going to have a busy day.

The two-time defending Eclipse Award winner will ride all 14 races on Saturday’s spectacular program at Gulfstream Park, including Ami’s Flatter in the 64th running of the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1).


First race post time is noon. The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby is scheduled to go off at 6:48 p.m.

“It’s a long day, but I’m blessed to be in that position,” Castellano said. “It’s a competitive game. I don’t go in thinking, ‘Oh, I have to ride 14 horses.’ I try to win the most races I can for the day.”

Castellano won five races on Derby Day 2014, including his first Florida Derby with Constitution. He also rode maiden winners La Madrina and Palace Gate, as well as In Tune in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and Micromanage in the Skip Away (G3).

“I had a great day. Everything worked out pretty good,” Castellano said. “I’ve been riding a lot of horses all my career. I don’t think it’s going to bother me at all because usually I ride a lot of horses on weekends. Mentally, I’ll be prepared for that.”

Initially, Castellano was supposed to ride last month’s Donn Handicap (G1) winner Constitution in Saturday’s $10 million Dubai World Cup, but the 4-year-old colt emerged from a March 7 workout with soreness in his left shin and skipped the race.

“I didn’t expect to be here,” Castellano said. “Unfortunately, my horse got hurt before the World Cup and everything changed. I’m lucky it was time enough for me to recover all my mounts.”

Castellano replaces regular Woodbine-based rider Luis Contreras on Ami’s Flatter for the Florida Derby, where they will break from post 1 in the nine-horse field. The son of Flatter was second in the Mucho Macho Man Jan. 3 at Gulfstream and most recently runner-up in the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby (G2).

“He’s a come-from-behind horse so having an inside post is an advantage,” he said. “You save all the ground in the beginning and you finish very strong in the end. It’s kind of like when I rode V.E. Day in the Travers (last year). I picked up the horse at the last minute and he came from way back and won. I’m looking for that kind of race.”

Castellano’s other stakes mounts on Saturday are Commissioner in the $150,000 Skip Away (G3), Grand Tito in the $150,000 Appleton (G3), Valid in the $100,000 Sir Shackleton, Sandiva in the $300,000 Honey Fox (G2), Riposte in the $150,000 Orchid (G3), Eskenformoney in the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and Twilight Eclipse in the $150,000 Pan American (G3).

“I handicap the day before. The majority of the horses I’ve been riding before, and I’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going on with the horses,” he said. “The horses I didn’t have a chance to ride before, I watch replays and talk to the trainer the day before to make my job easier. It’s hard to handicap 14 horses. Anything can happen in the races and as soon as they open the gate, you’re on your own. I try to go with the flow and put the horse in the best spot and give them the best chance to win the race.”

Headed for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Championship Meet riding title, Castellano doesn’t plan to make any adjustments to his regular preparations despite the busy day.

“It’s a routine. Thank God, I’m pretty healthy. I don’t have to lose weight,” he said. “I won’t eat during the day. At the beginning of the day I’ll have a little breakfast because it’s part of the routine. You don’t want to change anything because it doesn’t work that day.

“You go race-by-race. Of course, at the end of the day it’s going to catch up to you at some point. We’re all human beings, we all get tired. Mentally, it’s a lot of stress. Physically you have the same job to ride the horses the best you can, but I think it’s most important to be prepared mentally. The goal is to try to win the race the best you can.”



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