Javier Castellano won 11 races, including three graded stakes at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, and notched his 4,000th career victory on Sunday to be named the Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week. The title goes to the week’s outstanding jockey in the opinion of a panel of industry experts and the public consensus.
Castellano, posted 11 wins, 5 seconds and 2 thirds in 35 starts for earnings of $794,950 during the week. Javier excelled in Saturday’s stakes races by winning three of his four stakes mounts and on Sunday, achieved the milestone of 4,000 wins.
In the Grade III Suwannee River Stakes on Saturday, he rode Sandiva (IRE) to victory for trainer Todd Pletcher and Al Shaqab Racing. Two races later, Castellano again teamed up with Pletcher and Al Shaqab Racing in the Grade I Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap aboard Mshawish. After being bottled up early, Castellano was able to find running room in the stretch and split foes to earn Mshawish the victory by a nose.
Castellano described the ride as “very tight from the beginning all the way to the end. I never had a place to go. I had to stay patient and go from there. At some point in the race I got a little bit frustrated turning for home because I never saw any hole. Finally by the eighth pole when I saw the hole he went through a tiny hole and he made a big effort today. I give all the credit to the horse because they way he did it today, it was amazing. Not too many horses can do it the way he did it today.”
In Gulfstream’s next race, Castellano piloted Constitution to a front-running victory in the Grade I Donn Handicap. The Donn Handicap was the season debut for the Pletcher trained 4 year old, who managed to hold off reigning Donn champion Lea in the stretch.
Castellano had high praise for Constitution, “He’s a speed horse. He had a good post and I wanted to take advantage of that. It worked out perfect. I sent him out of the gate. My only concern was to break good out of the gate and get a good position. I didn’t see much speed in the race. The horse was phenomenal and just galloped along. Turning for home, he just took off again. I liked the way he did it today.”
To cap off his impressive weekend, Castellano won the 10th race at Gulfstream notching him his 4,000 career victory. Castellano described the win as “one of the best moments of my life, right now. I’ve been very fortunate to ride a lot of good horses the last few years and two Eclipse Awards back to back. I’ve won a lot of good races, a lot of grade I’s. Everything has gone (well) so far in my career. I’m very thankful and blessed.”
The son of a former jockey, Castellano got his start in his native Venezuela in 1996. He moved to the United States in June 1997, riding on the South Florida circuit. He moved to New York in 2001 and finished sixth in the standings. The next year, he was second.
In 2004, he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic with Horse of the Year Ghostzapper. Castellano won his first Triple Crown race in 2006 when he won the Preakness with Bernardini.
In 2011, he won 11 Grade I races, more than any other rider that year. On February 24, 2012, he notched up his 3,000th victory, riding Virtuously at Gulfstream Park.
On January 18, 2014, he won his first Eclipse Award as top jockey of 2013 and repeated again in 2014
Castellano currently ranks atop the jockey standings in both wins and earnings at Gulfstream Park. He’s also leading the nation in both categories for 2015.
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 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.