Each week, jockey Javier Castellano, who won the last three Eclipse Awards for being North America’s most outstanding jockey, is sharing a Saratoga Blog. This is the sixth of seven installments, with the questions coming from turf writer Bob Fortus.
Bob Fortus: On Saturday, you’re riding in six Grade 1 races in a row. It’s almost like a Breeders’ Cup Day. Does your approach change at all? Do you try to get a little more sleep? What’s your excitement level on a day like that?
Javier Castellano: “It’s real exciting. But one thing, I don’t want to change anything. If everything works for many years, why do you need to change on days like that? It’s not worth it. I do the same routine. Like I always do, I work horses in the morning. Especially on a Saturday, I’ve got to work some horses. On the grass or on the dirt, my clients, they call me to do some work. And then I focus to perform, do whatever I need to do. But I wouldn’t ever change anything. I wouldn’t change my routine. Ride horses and focus and go from there.”
Let’s talk about some of the horses you’re riding. Start with Cavorting (in the Personal Ensign). I know you didn’t ride her last time (in the Ogden Phipps, but in the Ruffian you rode her and won. She’s going to be racing around two turns, which she hasn’t done. What did you learn when you rode her that makes you think she can do that?
“Well, I didn’t have any problem at all the last time I rode her. Very impressive. She made me think she can go that far. The way she did it, she did it phenomenally. … It’s a mile and an eighth, two turns. You’ve got to be patient riding, and I hope it pays off.”
Probably the mount you have that’s going to be the most heavily supported by the public is Flintshire (in the Sword Dancer). Have been working him leading up to this race?
“I have the last two works. He worked very impressive. And the way he did it was unbelievable. It’s really a joy to work the horse and be around, be fortunate to ride, that kind of horse. And I’ve always been thankful, and I appreciate Mr. (Chad) Brown giving me an opportunity to ride the horse, because without him, I wouldn’t be riding that kind of horse.”
You gave him a nice prep (in the Bowling Green). It looked like it went perfectly to tune up for this race.
“You never know. The whole race, you have to perform. You have to go there and try to win the race. They don’t give it to you. You have to earn it. And I don’t take anything for granted. And I just do my job.”
Some of these horses you ride Saturday, you haven’t been on. Like in the King’s Bishop, Summer Revolution is a lightly raced horse. What’s your take on that field? It’s a big field, and he’s not really an experienced horse. What are your thoughts going into that race?
“Well, you have to do your homework. Usually, I watch the races and go from there. Try to talk to the trainer before the race, get some feedback, some thoughts, some tips. And hope I put everything together and try to give the best ride he can get.”
In the Ballerina, you’re riding By the Moon. She had beaten the Breeders’ Cup winner (Wavell Avenue) the last time they met. So that’s got to give you a lot of confidence.
“Yeah, absolutely. A really good filly. I’m very thankful to ride that filly. I never rode her before. And Michelle (Nevin), she gave me the opportunity to ride that horse. I’m very grateful. And hopefully, it can work out. When they put me on those kind of horses, you have to do your job. They do their job to bring the horse ready, and now I have to do my part, put the horse in a spot to win the race.”
A race that looks wide-open is the Forego, the sprint for older horses. You’re on Limousine Liberal, who was second in the King’s Bishop last year, the only time he ran at Saratoga. Have you thought about strategy for that race and how his trip might go?
“First of all, I’d like to talk to the trainer (Ben Colebrook) first, and maybe I can do it tomorrow or the next day. Just speak to him and think about it … and try to go from there.”
I’m saving the Travers for last. It’s a big field, and it looks like there’s a fair amount of speed. There are 14 horses, a lot of evenly matched horses. I’m sure you’ve been thinking about that race a lot. And Destin, who generally runs fairly close to the pace, do you think he’s a horse, if the pace heats up, that sit off it a little bit?
“Absolutely. I think he’s that kind of horse that you can put wherever you want. In the Derby, he was off the pace, and he gave me a run. Unfortunately, he got tired a little bit. But that’s the Derby. They have 20 horses you’ve got to deal with. In the Belmont, there was no pace. A reason was it was a mile-and-a-half race, a long distance. He showed a lot of speed. In the Jim Dandy, he showed no speed at all. He just sat with that horse that was on the lead (Laoban). He went wire to wire. But I believe there’s going to be a little more pace. I think the horse can sit perfect. He doesn’t have to be that close to the pace. Just rate him a little bit, and hopefully, the horse can give me a good run.”
Has your phone been ringing off the hook since the news broke about you and your agent? (Castellano and agent Matt Muzikar are ending their business relationship at the conclusion of the Saratoga meet.)
“It’s crazy. A lot of people I’ve known in my life, they’ve called me. At some point, you feel grateful. I appreciate my life, what I’ve done in my career, until you get to the point that people look up to you and they want you to keep doing good. I think you remain motivated. … Unfortunately, I have to move forward. I’ve been having a lot of success with Matt. He did a great job with my career. He slowly took me, put me in better spots. He gave me three Eclipse Awards, (six) Breeders’ Cups. How much more, I can’t ask him for. But you get, at some point, where you have to move forward. And this is the time.”