Sunday, March 18, 2012

Castellano Sets New Standard at Gulfstream for Victories

HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Jockey Javier Castellano broke the record for most wins during a Gulfstream race meet Saturday when he won his 98th race of the 2011-2012 season aboard Repenter in the first race.

Castellano set the standard on the 72nd day of live racing. He shared the previous record of 97 with Jerry Bailey (1996 over 64 days), Wigberto Ramos (1991 over 81 days) and Julio Pezua (1987 over 50 days).

“It’s a great day in my life,” Castellano said. “I’ve been doing so well lately. I’ve been so lucky. But I’ve had a lot of help from all the owners and trainers and my agent, Matt Muzikar. It’s been a great meeting. I won my 3000th race and I’ve been riding a lot of good horses. I’m looking forward to my next goal, the Kentucky Derby. Hopefully, I can win it.”

Seven of Castellano’s 98 victories have come in stakes race. They are: Pomeroys Pistol in the Sugar Swirl (G3), Trickmeister in the Harlan’s Holiday, Silver Medallion in the Fort Lauderdale (G3), Dayatthespa in the Herecomesthebride (G3) and the Sweetest Chant, Algorithms in the Holy Bull (G3) and Simmard in the Mac Diarmida (G2).

Castellano began his riding career in Venezuela in 1996 before venturing to the U.S. the following year. He rode his first winner, Phone Man, at Calder shortly upon his arrival when he was 18 years old.

A prominent rider on the New York-Gulfstream circuit for several years, Castellano counts Bernardini, the 2006 Preakness Stakes winner, and Ghostzapper, the 2004 Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Classic victor, among the top horses he has ridden during his career. He rode his 3,000 career winner earlier this winter when he guided Virtuously to victory at Gulfstream Feb. 24.

Castellano said he had modest goals when he arrived in the U.S. in 1997.

“At the time my goal was to win some races, get established, and be a good rider,” he recalled. “Of course, I wanted to be a leading rider and win the Derby, but it’s kind of tough at first when you’re in a new country and don’t even speak the language. You really just try to be yourself. You want to do well and show your ability, but you have to be realistic at the start.”

Along with his current agent Muzikar, Castellano acknowledged former agent, Gil Graell, along with trainers Luis Olivares and Pepe Mendez, who helped him get established during his first year at Calder.

“I’ve been around some great people,” Castellano said. “My agent has me riding for people like Todd Pletcher and Chad Brown and Bill Mott…he’s put me in the right barns. Sometimes people don’t understand how important the people behind the scenes are.”

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