Castellano came to Florida this winter as the regular rider of Union Rags, the early 6-5 favorite for the Florida Derby, as well as the promising young colt Algorithms. After Algorithms blew away Eclipse champion Hansen Jan. 29 in the Holy Bull (G3), Castellano had to make a decision on which 3-year-old would be his preference looking ahead to the spring classics.
Castellano is fatalistic about the turn of events. “Unfortunately things happen. It was a tough decision. It was back and forth for about two weeks. Union Rags is a great horse. I chose the other horse and he got hurt. It’s part of the game.”
Choosing Algorithms over Union Rags was more than a horse-vs.-horse decision. Algorithms is trained by Todd Pletcher, who has played a major role in Castellano rising to the elite level of the nation’s jockeys and running away with the riders’ competition this winter.
“Todd has given me a lot of support the last couple of years to put me in a good position in my career. Right now he has the best horses in the country. I’m really blessed to be participating in his organization.”
Pletcher will be giving Castellano a leg up on El Padrino, a three-time winner in five starts, including a decisive allowance win early in the meeting. Among those trailing him home was Take Charge Indy, the morning line third choice in the Florida Derby.
El Padrino’s triumph in the Risen Star, his first graded stakes win, represented another significant step forward. “He was very game. He was a fighter the last part of the race. He put everything together. He’s a courageous horse,” Castellano said. “He’s well bred, by Pulpit, and I think he’s going to put on a really good show Saturday.”