OLDSMAR, FL. – Further proof this probably is the highest-quality jockey colony in Tampa Bay Downs history arrived today in the form of two victories by Jesus L. Castanon.
The 43-year-old Mexico City native, who won back-to-back titles here in 2003-2004 and 2004-2005, vaulted to national prominence in 2011 when he rode Shackleford to a Preakness victory for trainer Dale Romans.
Castanon was sidelined nine months after breaking his tailbone and suffering a concussion in a spill at Ellis Park in Kentucky in August of 2015. He seeks to regain some of the magic he discovered here more than a decade ago, but acknowledged the Oldsmar waters are deeper than ever.
“This jockeys’ room is pretty tough. You can look around and see a lot of good, young riders,” said Castanon, who also won the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Shackleford in 2012. “They are looking to take the next steps in their careers, and I know they’ll do it.
“There are a lot of good trainers on the backside here and a bunch of good horses, also, so this is a good place to be for me. And I’m enjoying the weather,” he added, about 90 minutes after the sun finally broke through following a dank morning.
When Castanon first came to Tampa Bay Downs for the 2002-2003 meeting, he received a major boost from top trainer Tom Proctor. He is working for Proctor again and starting to attract business from other good outfits.
“I’m happy that Tom Proctor is able to help me again and that I’m able to ride for some other good trainers,” said Castanon, who is married to retired jockey and 1999 Eclipse Award Outstanding Apprentice finalist Rolanda Simpson and has four children and a granddaughter. “I came here because I love this place and I want to win races and not just go somewhere to make a living. The grass course here is probably one of the best in the country, and the dirt track is always in good shape and kind to the horses.”
Castanon rode one horse for Proctor today, finishing fourth on 2-year-old Florida-bred filly and first-time starter Art Institute in the eighth race on the turf. His victories came in the first race on 3-year-old gelding Supermans Cape for owners V-Leaf Stables and Richard Ravin and trainer Larry Rivelli, and in the sixth on the turf on 3-year-old filly Believe Indeed for owner Parting Glass Stable and trainer Derek Ryan.