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Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Spring Handle Numbers Increase/Castellano & Ness Win Meet Titles


BALTIMORE, 05-23-12---The Maryland Jockey Club concluded its spring meeting at Pimlico Race Course last weekend, posting average wagering figures which were 9% higher than the 2011 spring meet. The average daily handle went from $4.72 million to $5.17 million. The stand featured 29 live racing dates and 21 simulcast days.

“It is significant news that the live and export numbers increased from a year ago,” Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas said. “We finished strong as betting was up in May on nine of 11 days of live racing. Our handle improved $4.1 million on Preakness day and $3.1 million last Friday which helped the final numbers and I have to thank our racing office for carding two unbelievable cards.”


Attendance was up nearly 9% at Pimlico as the Preakness day crowd increased from 107,398 to a record 121,309. Performances by Grammy Award winner Maroon 5 and Billboard Music Award winner Wiz Khalifa in the infield plus the presence of Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another in Baltimore for 12 days before the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown contributed to make it a must-see event.

“We continue to enhance the infield experience since changing the beverage policy after the 2008 Preakness and got lucky as Maroon 5’s popularity skyrocketed after we booked them,” added Chuckas. “I don’t think you can put a dollar figure on what it meant having trainer Doug O’Neill bring the Kentucky Derby winner here two days after winning the Derby instead of just three days before the Preakness. Their presence increased our visibility in the market as Doug and his team became part of the community leading up to the big weekend.”

Castellano, Ness, Midwest Thoroughbred, Inc. Capture Spring Meet Titles

The eight-week Pimlico spring meeting ended Saturday afternoon with Abel Castellano, Jamie Ness and Midwest Thoroughbred, Inc. winning individual titles. The 29-day stand began at the historic home of the Preakness Stakes (G1) on March 30.

Castellano won the first race of the meet and never looked back, dominating the rider standings with 41 victories, 22 more than Horacio Karamanos. The 28-year-old rode winners for 14 different trainers, including 23 for Ness. The duo teamed up for six multiple win days, including four on May 11.

“I am so happy with the way the meet went,” Castellano said. “My agent Kevin Witte put in a lot of hard work and I wouldn’t have won the meet without him. I was winning races nearly every day (24 of the 29 days) as trainers gave me an opportunity to show them what I can do.”

Castellano arrived in Maryland as a 19-year-old and has been a consistent top five rider in the state since. He captured his first career riding title during the 2003 fall meet at Laurel Park and waited nearly nine years for his second.

“I was very young when I won that first title and almost expect it to happen all the time,” added Castellano, who has 73 winners in Maryland this year, three more than reigning champion Sheldon Russell. “Now I am married with two kids and another on the way and have more responsibility. I am taking things more seriously-putting in more work in the mornings. When the big-name riders came in last week and asked who the leading rider was, it made me happy that they knew I was.”

Ness saddled 24 winners from just 65 starters during the stand, 13 more than Dane Kobiskie and Hugh McMahon. Ness leads the nation with 178 winners through May 22, including 47 in Maryland.

“Riding for Jamie Ness is the best,” said Castellano. “I know that every horse is at 100 percent and riding horses like that increases your confidence. I work a lot of horses for him in the morning and love having the opportunity to ride for him.”

Midwest Thoroughbreds topped the owner standings at Old Hilltop, finishing first 24 times from 64 starters, all with Ness.


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