Abel Castellano Jr., a regular in the Maryland jockey colony for three years, will move his tack to South Florida next month in preparation for the Calder Race Course meetings. The 22-year-old native of Venezuela has 772 career victories and currently ranks 15th in the Laurel Park winter meeting standings. "A couple of the top trainers, Eddie Plesa and Marty Wolfson, asked me to come down and ride," said Castellano, the younger brother of New York-based riding star Javier Castellano. "I am happy to return to South Florida where I got my start, but I'll always have fond feelings for Maryland. I rode a lot of good horses and made many lifelong friends." Castellano arrived in Maryland in the spring of 2003 and tied for the fifth spot in the state standings. He took the 2003 Laurel Park fall meet riding title with 64 first place finishes. His total included a career-best five winners on Oct. 18, 2003. His best year in Maryland was 2004, when he won 201 races for a career-high $5.1 million. He captured the Pimlico Distaff (gr. III) on Friel's For Real, one of 11 stakes he won that season.Last year, the native of Maracaibo missed more than two months after breaking three bones in his back in an April 3 spill at Laurel Park.Castellano began his U.S. career in 2000 at Gulfstream Park and has also ridden at Churchill Downs, Fair Grounds, Keeneland, Oaklawn Park, and Calder. He rode his first career winner at the age of 16 aboard Ser Samantha on Sept. 22, 1999, at Santa Rita Race Course in his native country.
Castellano will leave Laurel Park after Sunday's card. He is scheduled to begin riding at Gulfstream Park April 8. The Calder meet opens April 25.