Jockey Javier Castellano rode the 3,000th winner of his career Feb. 24 at Gulfstream Park, guiding 4-year-old filly Virtuously to a late-closing victory in the sixth race (VIDEO).
“It feels great. It was time. I stayed patient and rode the same way I always ride,” Castellano said. “I’ve been very blessed to have all the support from all the owners and all the trainers and my agent, Matt Muzikar. People think it’s only myself, but it’s not. I have a lot of help.”
The 34-year-old native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, currently leading the jockey standings at Gulfstream with 71 victories, had ridden four winners the previous day at Gulfstream to put him in the position of winning on one of five mounts Friday to reach the career milestone.
“Florida is my home. I ride in New York, but this is where I rode first when I came to this country,” said Castellano, who will be at Fair Grounds in New Orleans Feb. 24. “I love Florida, I love the people. They’ve supported me my whole career.”
Castellano reached 3,000 on his third mount of the day. Virtuously ($6.40) dropped far off an extremely fast pace set by favored Scootles in the $30,000 claiming race at one mile on turf race for fillies and mares. The Dale Romans-trained daughter of Congrats remained several lengths back as the field turned into the homestretch before responding to Castellano’s urging and launching an impressive wide drive to catch the tiring pacesetter by three-quarters of a length.
Castellano began his riding career in Venezuela in 1996 before venturing to the U.S. the following year. He rode his first winner, Phone Man, at Calder shortly after his arrival.
Prominent on the New York-Gulfstream circuit for several years, Castellano counts Bernardini , the 2006 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner, and Ghostzapper , the 2004 Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) victor, among the top horses he has ridden during his career.’
Castellano rides the Todd Pletcher-trained El Padrino in Saturday’s Risen Star (gr. II) at Fair Grounds and Algorithms for Pletcher in Gulfstream's $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth the next day.
“I hope this Sunday we have a great performance,” said Castellano, “and hopefully find the right horse to the (Kentucky) Derby.”
Castellano opted to ride the Pletcher-trained Algorithms, the undefeated winner of the Holy Bull (gr. III) and morning-line favorite for the Fountain of Youth, over Union Rags , the colt he rode to victory in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) last year.