Jockey Javier Castellano’s talent is well known amongst his peers and most race fans and that riding talent shined once again on one of racing’sbiggest stages at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. Castellano won four races on the Fountain Of Youth day card, including three stakes victories on his way to being named this week’s Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for February 23rd – February 28th. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.
Castellano kicked off the 13 race card with a cruising victory aboard Manhattan Dan in the $75,000 Texas Glitter Stakes. The front-running win was never in doubt as Javier and Manhattan Dan seized the lead early, led by a comfortable three lengths nearing the top of the stretch and drew away by more than five lengths late as the handiest of winners.
Castellano would find time to notch a maiden winning victory aboard Majesto in the third race before getting a leg up on Cathryn Sophia, in the Gr.2 Fasig-Tipton Davona Dale Stakes. She and Castellano have now established her as a prime contender for the upcoming $200,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks and ultimately the Kentucky Oaks in May at Churchill Downs.
Cathryn Sophia once again proved to be in a class by herself. Following up a maiden score by 12 ¾ lengths at Parx, a Gin Talking Stakes win by 16 ¼ lengths at Laurel and a Forward Gal (G2) romp by 5 ¼ lengths at Gulfstream, the daughter of Street Boss broke alertly from the starting gate to assume a stalking position between horses along the backstretch. Javier opted to ease Cathryn Sophia back behind the leaders before launching a three-wide bid around the far turn as he sat motionless. The pair proceeded to take the lead leaving the turn into the homestretch, never to be threatened while drawing away to victory under a hand ride.
“I really liked the way she did it. It was really impressive. It was the first time I rode her. She did it really easy. I liked the way she started the first quarter mile. She was never rank or anything like that. I covered up behind horses, and when I asked her she took off,” said Castellano, who picked up the mount from an injured Joel Rosario. “I can put her in the best, top quality horses in the country the way she did it.”
After a couple comfortable wins Castellano would show why he’s been one of the best riders in North America for several years with his victory aboard Converge in the $150,000 Gr. 3 Palm Beach Stakes. It would be his first start aboard the Chad Brown trained 3-year-old making his 2016 debut, and he would take his cue from Brown on how to pilot the talented colt.
The son of Sidney’s Candy would broke last of 13 horses from the starting gate and settled well off the pace set by long shot American Phantom and pressed by Giant Run. The favorite then advanced on the inside before being briefly angled to the outside at the top of the stretch before Castellano would move back to the inside for the stretch drive. Converge caught Giant Run inside the 16th-pole and edged away to victory.
“I had a beautiful trip. I have to give Mr. Brown credit. I rode the horse the way he wanted to do it. It was the first time I rode the horse I never was on the horse before,” Castellano said. “The horse ran a beautiful race.”
For the week Castellano won 11 times from his 34 starters with seven second place finishes and another two third placings with earnings of $530,950.
JockeyTalk360.com spotlights the riders across North America and around the world who may be the bravest, toughest and most accomplished of all athletes. The Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week is selected by a vote of representatives of America’s Best Racing, the Daily Racing Form, Equibase, the Jockeys’ Guild, the Paulick Report, the Thoroughbred Daily News, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, Thoroughbred Racing Associations, and Turf Publicists of America.