HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Jockey Javier Castellano rode the 3000th winner of his career Friday at Gulfstream Park, guiding Virtuously to a thrilling late-closing victory in the sixth race.

“It feels great. It was time. I stayed patient and rode the same way I always ride,” Castellano said. “I’ve been very blessed to have all the support from all the owners and all the trainers and my agent, Matt Muzikar. People think it’s only myself, but it’s not. I have a lot of help.”

The 34-year-old native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, who currently leads the jockey standings at Gulfstream with 71 victories, had ridden four winners on Thursday’s card at Gulfstream to put him in the position of winning on one of five mounts Friday to reach the career milestone.

“Florida is my home. I ride in New York, but this is where I rode first when I came to this country,” said Castellano, who is scheduled to ride at Fair Grounds in New Orleans Saturday. “I love Florida; I love the people; they’ve supported me my whole career.”

Castellano reached 3000 on his third mount of the day. Virtuously dropped far off an extremely fast pace set by favored Scootles in the mile turf race. The Dale Romans-trained mount remained several lengths back as the field turned into the homestretch before responding to Castellano’s urging and launching an impressive wide drive to catch the tiring pacesetter by three-quarters of a length.

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.

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.’

Having reached 3000 career wins, Castellano has set a more immediate goal on his way to No. 4000.

“I hope this Sunday we have a great performance,” said Castellano, who’ll ride the Todd Pletcher-trained El Padrino in Saturday’s Risen Star (G2) at Fair Ground, “and hopefully find the right horse to the (Kentucky) Derby.”

Castellano had to make a tough choice between two mounts in Sunday’s $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. He opted to ride the Pletcher-trained Algorithms, the undefeated winner of the Holy Bull (G3) and morning-line favorite for the Fountain of Youth, over Union Rags, whom he rode to victories in the Champagne (G1) and Saratoga Special (G2) last year.