Castellano Previews Stakes Mounts on Saturday's Gulfstream Card Defending 3-Time Titlist High on Daredevil, Honor Code, Night Prowler
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL -- Already a winner of 14 stakes during Gulfstream Parkâ€™s Championship Meet -- nine of them graded, including the first two of three Grade 1 events on the stakes calendar -- two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano is poised to add to his totals this weekend.
On Saturday, the 37-year-old Castellano will be aboard program favorites Daredevil in the $200,000 Fasig-Tipton Swale (G2) and Night Prowler in the $150,000 Palm Beach (G3), as well as Grade 2 winner Honor Code, third choice in a field of six for the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2).
Letâ€™s Go Stable and WinStar Farmâ€™s Daredevil will be making his highly anticipated season debut in the seven-furlong Swale for 3-year-olds on the main track. Castellano rode the son of More Than Ready to victory in the Champagne (G1) and was up for a disappointing finish in the Breedersâ€™ Cup Juvenile (G1) last fall.
â€œIâ€™m very confident in him,â€ Castellano said. â€œI saw a couple of his bullet works and the way he did it showed me he will be ready for the race.â€
Daredevil drew Post 1 in the eight-horse Swale, postponed from Feb. 28 when the last seven races at Gulfstream â€“ including the Palm Beach â€“ were canceled due to torrential rainstorms. It is the same post he had in the original seven-horse lineup.
â€œI wish I would be in the outside post, but itâ€™s something you canâ€™t control. You just have to work it out and try to find the best position for him in the race,â€ Castellano said. â€œIf you ask me, three-quarters, the rail is OK. But, seven-eighths, itâ€™s kind of tough because you have to go out of the chute. Weâ€™ll see how the race develops. Maybe I break on the lead and he goes wire-to-wire. If something happens at the gate, maybe I fall into position and go from there.â€
Honor Code is also making his first start of 2015 and just the second following a Gulfstream allowance last March. The 4-year-old son of A.P. Indy was one of the leading Triple Crown candidates before being knocked to the sidelines with a tendon injury, returning with a dramatic come-from-behind victory in a 6 Â½-furlong optional claiming allowance Nov. 22 at Aqueduct.
â€œIt was a very impressive race because I thought I couldnâ€™t make it in time going just 6 Â½ furlongs,â€ Castellano said, â€œbut the way he did it was very impressive, because itâ€™s not his distance. He still showed up and he proved he belongs.â€
Castellano has been aboard for each of Honor Codeâ€™s last four starts, and will have to navigate another trip from the rail in the one-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap for older horses.
â€œThe rail doesnâ€™t bother me. The horse is going to come from behind, no matter what,â€ he said. â€œThereâ€™s going to be plenty of speed with Private Zone and Wicked Strong. All those kind of horses are going to be involved with the early pace in the race. I think itâ€™s going to set up for horse coming from behind. Iâ€™m looking forward to riding Honor Code, big time.â€
Night Prowler has had the services of Castellano for three of his four starts, including a maiden win in October at Belmont Park and a half-length victory in the Dania Beach (G3) on Jan. 3 at Gulfstream in his 3-year-old debut. The Chad Brown trainee will break from Post 5 of nine in the 1 1/16-mile Palm Beach.
â€œI had a perfect trip last time,â€ Castellano said. â€œWeâ€™ll see how it develops and try to tuck him into position. Itâ€™s very important with this horse to save ground around the first turn and thatâ€™s exactly what I did last time. Iâ€™m looking for that same kind of trip this time.â€
Entering Fridayâ€™s 11-race card, Castellano led all jockeys at the Championship Meet with 90 wins, 31 more than Luis Saez, and $3,521,676 in purse earnings. He needs 10 victories to hit 100 for the fourth consecutive year and would be the first rider in track history to capture four straight winter meet titles.
â€œIâ€™m very fortunate to be in the spot and very blessed at the same time,â€ Castellano said. â€œI have support from all different levels of trainers and owners, and they give me confidence to ride their horses. My agent, Matt Muzikar, has done a great job the last four years building relationships and trying to find the best horses to ride. This game is all about maintaining your level and try to keep going and be humble and try to ride the best race.â€
Cay Dancer Set for Second U.S. Start in Sunday Allowance
Highclere America and Robert Barnettâ€™s Cay Dancer (GB), scratched from the Suwannee River (G3) on Feb. 7, is slated to return to Gulfstream in Sundayâ€™s 11th race, a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance for older fillies and mares.
The 4-year-old daughter of Danehill Dancer (IRE) spiked a fever before the Suwannee River, leading to her defection from the stake.
â€œSheâ€™s since recovered,â€ trainer Chad Brown said. â€œSheâ€™s been training very well. It seems like a logical spot to get her back started. The distance might be a tad short for her, but sheâ€™s training quite well. Weâ€™ll see how she runs here and then build off of it. Thatâ€™s the plan.â€
Sundayâ€™s race will be Cay Dancerâ€™s second start in North America after debuting in the La Prevoyante (G3) on Dec. 27, when she endured a rough trip in the 1 Â½-mile contest. After breaking slowly, she was fanned seven-wide wide entering the stretch and had to angle out again to make a bid in the center of the racetrack. She would finish ninth, 4 Â½ lengths behind Irish Mission.
â€œThe trip was very frustrating,â€ Brown said. â€œShe did get a very wide trip. I thought she ran well despite all that, and now sheâ€™s had a bit of a break in between starts.â€
Cay Dancer joined Brownâ€™s string last summer after making 11 starts in Europe, including three wins at distances spanning from 7 furlongs to 1 Â¼ miles. She has trained consistently at Gulfstreamâ€™s satellite training facility Palm Meadows, most recently breezing four furlongs in 48.70 seconds over the facilityâ€™s turf course on Tuesday.
â€œHer breezes have been very good the past couple of weeks,â€ Brown said. â€œI would expect her to run well.â€
Cay Dancer is scheduled to break from the far outside in Post 10 Sunday and is slated to be ridden for the first time by John Velazquez.
Brown Updates Statuses of Sophomores Lady Eli and Leave the Light On
Brown is in the process of readying Lady Eli, undefeated winner of the Breedersâ€™ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), for a return to the races. The daughter of Divine Park, who has not run since her Breedersâ€™ Cup victory, is on track to make her sophomore debut this spring.
â€œSheâ€™s breezing terrific,â€ Brown said. â€œRight now, the plan is to run her in the Appalachian (G3) at Keeneland on April 12.â€
Despite running exclusively on turf, Lady Eli was runner-up for the Eclipse Award as the nationâ€™s top 2-year-old filly of 2014. The filly turned in a bullet work on Feb. 24, breezing four furlongs in 48.75 seconds. The move was the fastest of 42 workers that morning.
â€œShe did it as easy as can be,â€ Brown said. â€œMechanically, sheâ€™s moving beautifully. Iâ€™m just hoping to see more of the same from her as we get closer to her 3-year-old debut.â€
Brown identified the $1 million Belmont Oaks (G1) and the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1) as major goals for the Champion during her sophomore season.
â€œThose are two really big targets that we have for her,â€ Brown said. â€œHopefully if she stays healthy, she can show up in both of those races.â€ Brown also noted that Remsen (G2) winner Leave the Light On, a candidate for the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (G2) before injuring his right hind ankle during a January workout, is recovering well from surgery. â€œRight now heâ€™s at Dell Ridge Farm in Kentucky,â€ Brown said. â€œWeâ€™ll pick him up when we go back to Keeneland. Dr. [Larry] Bramlage performed the surgery on him, and according to his report, everything went as planned, and the prognosis is excellent. Fingers crossed, weâ€™ll pick him up at Keeneland, and hopefully heâ€™ll be a nice horse for us during the summer.â€ Brown added that the timetable for the colt to return to the track was about two months after surgery. â€œAfter surgery, they indicated that in 60 days heâ€™d be fine to return to light training,â€ he said. â€œWeâ€™ll start him up there at Keeneland and kind of let the horse tell us when heâ€™s ready to start breezing, but Iâ€™m optimistic that this horse can be back to the races by Saratoga.â€