By Chris Maley, The Saratogian
Javier CastellanoAt the halfway point of the 40-day Saratoga meet, Javier Castellano looks more than poised to repeat as top jockey.

The 36-year-old Venezuelan native used Saturday (Day 20) to put a strong grip on the jockey standings at Saratoga Race Course, scoring four victories to bring his total up to 30 for the summer.

One year after dominating at the Spa en route to 66 victories, Castellano’s 30 wins put him comfortably ahead of John Velazquez and Irad Ortiz Jr., who are tied for second with 19 wins apiece.

“It feels awesome because every race you ride you ride a lot more confident,” Castellano said. “I’ve been blessed and very thankful to ride the best horses and they give me an opportunity to win.”

Castellano’s record stands at 30-21-15 in 114 mounts heading into Sunday, good for a 26 winning percentage and earnings of more than $2.2 million.

“Anything can happen, it’s not easy to predict each race and thank God things have been going the right way,” he said.

Castellano’s horses won the first, third, sixth and ninth races Saturday. He saddled Michael Maker’s Silver Union to a 2 3/4 length-victory in Race 1, helping the filly score her second win in as many tries at Saratoga.

“The way she performed today was amazing,” Castellano said. “When I asked her, she took off; she had so much horse in the tank. Very impressive, she stepped up today and the way she did it was very professional.”

Castellano won aboard two Todd Pletcher-trained favorites in Race 3 and Race 6. He rode Storm to win by a neck in the third race and helped Designed For War break his maiden in Race 6 under a hand-ride near the rail.

“I really like the way he did it, very good-minded horse,” Castellano said of Designed For War. “First time starting on grass, very impressed. I don’t see too many horses that did it the way he did it.”

Castellano discussed what it’s like to ride for Pletcher, the four-time reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer.

“I’m blessed to be in that spot. I know Johnny (Velazquez) is the main guy but I’m very happy and blessed for the opportunity to ride his horses,” he said.

Castellano rode Richies Sweetheart in Race 9, holding on by 3/4 of a length to help trainer Larry Rivelli earn his first win of the meet.

NOTES: In 2013, Castellano earned more than $5.4 million. He finished 66-62-65 in 322 starts and won the Eclipse Award for outstanding jockey.