Javier Castellano, Joel Rosario, and Gary Stevens took three entirely different routes to their positions as jockey finalists in the Eclipse Awards. Who wins could depend upon what criteria voters choose to use.
Winners in the 17 horse and human categories will be announced at the 43rd annual Eclipse Awards dinner and ceremony Jan. 18 at Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino in Hallandale Beach, Fla. The ceremony will air live on HRTV.
Castellano took the traditional path by rising to the top of the purse earnings and wins lists. He accomplished both of those feats while plying his trade on the tough circuit of New York most of the year and Florida in the winter.
With $26,213,507, Castellano set a new all-time seasonal earnings record, beating Ramon Dominguez's previous mark of $25,634,852 from 2012. Castellano bettered second-place Rosario by more than $4.6 million, and he rode 362 winners, 54 more than Northern California's Russell Baze, who often leads that category.
Castellano's mounts included some of the finest Thoroughbreds in the country. He won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) on Ria Antonia, and on Princess of Sylmar he captured the Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I), Alabama Stakes (gr. I), and Beldame Invitational (gr. I).
When Castellano began 2013, Stevens was a retired rider working as a broadcaster for HRTV and NBC. But in mid-January Stevens launched one of the biggest comebacks ever by a jockey.
At age 50, Stevens didn't just return to ride a few winners. He scored in his ninth Triple Crown race, piloting Oxbow to victory in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. At the Breeders' Cup World Championships, Stevens won the Distaff (gr. I) on the first day with Beholder and the Classic (gr. I) on the second day with Mucho Macho Man, bringing his Breeders' Cup total victories to 10.
Prior to the Breeders' Cup, Stevens captured grade I races with Beholder and Mucho Macho Man in California. His victories at Betfair Hollywood Park included the Gamely Stakes (gr. I) with Marketing Mix and the Vanity Stakes (gr. I) with Byrama. Stevens won the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) on She's a Tiger and finished first on that filly in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, but was disqualified to second.
Though Rosario didn't match the exploits of Castellano or Stevens, he is carving out a stellar career with a difficult move, from West Coast to East Coast. After several excellent years in California, Rosario in mid-2012 moved east, where he is succeeding at the same level. Highlights of Rosario's 2013 included his first win in a Triple Crown race, aboard Orb in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).