Castellano To Ride All 14 Races Florida Derby Day
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL â€“ For a guy who wasnâ€™t even supposed to be in South Florida on Saturday, jockey Javier Castellano is going to have a busy day.
The two-time defending Eclipse Award winner will ride all 14 races on Saturdayâ€™s spectacular program at Gulfstream Park, including Amiâ€™s Flatter in the 64th running of the $1 million Besilu Stables Florida Derby (G1).
First race post time is noon. The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby is scheduled to go off at 6:48 p.m.
â€œItâ€™s a long day, but Iâ€™m blessed to be in that position,â€ Castellano said. â€œItâ€™s a competitive game. I donâ€™t go in thinking, â€˜Oh, I have to ride 14 horses.â€™ I try to win the most races I can for the day.â€
Castellano won five races on Derby Day 2014, including his first Florida Derby with Constitution. He also rode maiden winners La Madrina and Palace Gate, as well as In Tune in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and Micromanage in the Skip Away (G3).
â€œI had a great day. Everything worked out pretty good,â€ Castellano said. â€œIâ€™ve been riding a lot of horses all my career. I donâ€™t think itâ€™s going to bother me at all because usually I ride a lot of horses on weekends. Mentally, Iâ€™ll be prepared for that.â€
Initially, Castellano was supposed to ride last monthâ€™s Donn Handicap (G1) winner Constitution in Saturdayâ€™s $10 million Dubai World Cup, but the 4-year-old colt emerged from a March 7 workout with soreness in his left shin and skipped the race.
â€œI didnâ€™t expect to be here,â€ Castellano said. â€œUnfortunately, my horse got hurt before the World Cup and everything changed. Iâ€™m lucky it was time enough for me to recover all my mounts.â€
Castellano replaces regular Woodbine-based rider Luis Contreras on Amiâ€™s Flatter for the Florida Derby, where they will break from post 1 in the nine-horse field. The son of Flatter was second in the Mucho Macho Man Jan. 3 at Gulfstream and most recently runner-up in the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby (G2).
â€œHeâ€™s a come-from-behind horse so having an inside post is an advantage,â€ he said. â€œYou save all the ground in the beginning and you finish very strong in the end. Itâ€™s kind of like when I rode V.E. Day in the Travers (last year). I picked up the horse at the last minute and he came from way back and won. Iâ€™m looking for that kind of race.â€
Castellanoâ€™s other stakes mounts on Saturday are Commissioner in the $150,000 Skip Away (G3), Grand Tito in the $150,000 Appleton (G3), Valid in the $100,000 Sir Shackleton, Sandiva in the $300,000 Honey Fox (G2), Riposte in the $150,000 Orchid (G3), Eskenformoney in the $250,000 Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) and Twilight Eclipse in the $150,000 Pan American (G3).
â€œI handicap the day before. The majority of the horses Iâ€™ve been riding before, and Iâ€™ve got a pretty good idea of whatâ€™s going on with the horses,â€ he said. â€œThe horses I didnâ€™t have a chance to ride before, I watch replays and talk to the trainer the day before to make my job easier. Itâ€™s hard to handicap 14 horses. Anything can happen in the races and as soon as they open the gate, youâ€™re on your own. I try to go with the flow and put the horse in the best spot and give them the best chance to win the race.â€
Headed for an unprecedented fourth consecutive Championship Meet riding title, Castellano doesnâ€™t plan to make any adjustments to his regular preparations despite the busy day.
â€œItâ€™s a routine. Thank God, Iâ€™m pretty healthy. I donâ€™t have to lose weight,â€ he said. â€œI wonâ€™t eat during the day. At the beginning of the day Iâ€™ll have a little breakfast because itâ€™s part of the routine. You donâ€™t want to change anything because it doesnâ€™t work that day.
â€œYou go race-by-race. Of course, at the end of the day itâ€™s going to catch up to you at some point. Weâ€™re all human beings, we all get tired. Mentally, itâ€™s a lot of stress. Physically you have the same job to ride the horses the best you can, but I think itâ€™s most important to be prepared mentally. The goal is to try to win the race the best you can.â€
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