Javier Castellano has become one of the most successful jockeys in North America. Named the top jockey in American horseracing for three consecutive years (2013-2015), Castellano continues to blaze his way across tracks on the most competitive racing circuits.
Hailing from Venezuela, Javier is a second-generation rider. His father and uncle were both successful jockeys in their home country. Venezuela is also where Javier began his career in 1996. After working the smaller South American tracks like La Rinconada for a year he decided to make the move to the United States and settled in South Florida to become a member of one of the toughest jockey colonies in North America.
The success Castellano enjoyed in South Florida was moderate; it isn’t easy for a new jockey to stake a claim and establish themselves with marquee trainers at racetracks like Gulfstream Park and Calder Racecourse. While he did reasonably well in Florida it wasn’t until Castellano decided to move to New York in 2001 that his career began to explode.
On the NYRA tracks of Belmont Park, Aqueduct, and Saratoga, Javier Castellano began to gain the attention of trainers because of his strong work ethic and effort on the racetrack. This paid off for him in 2004 when he was tasked with riding Ghostzapper, a horse owned by racetrack magnate Frank Stronach. Ghostzapper had a tremendous campaign in 2004 with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and an Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. The horse also posted one of the fastest speed figures on record.
2006 saw Castellano align with the famous Darley Racing Stable owned by Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum of the UAE. “Sheikh Mo”, as he is affectionately known in US racing circles, secured the services of Castellano for his colt Bernardini. The horse gained Castellano his first win in a Triple Crown race when he claimed the 2006 Preakness Stakes. Named 3-year-old Horse of the Year in 2006, Bernardini and Castellano also captured the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Travers Stakes.
A brief return to Florida and Calder Racecourse in 2007 brought things full circle for Javier Castellano as he won his 2,000th career race aboard Nombre de Dios for trainer Mark Hennig. As things turned out this trip perhaps foreshadowed a full return to the South Florida circuit where Castellano began his American career. Moving his tack to the ultra-competitive Gulfstream Park, Javier proved that he could compete with racing’s best. On March 17, 2012, Castellano set a record for most wins in a single meet at Gulfstream with 98.
Castellano gained mainstream media attention in for his brawl with jockey Calvin Borel at the 2010 Breeders’ Cup. Castellano was confronted in the Winners’ Circle at Churchill Downs by Borel after the Breeders’ Cup Marathon. Borel had taken exception to Castellano’s riding tactics during the race. After verbally threatening Castellano, Borel threw several punches and had to be restrained by multiple people.
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