Javier J. Castellano’s list of accomplishments, in a relatively short period of time are simply staggering.
For instance: Castellano is one of only two jockeys to win four consecutive Eclipse Awards; he owns the single-year record for purse earnings; he has won eight Breeders’ Cup races and a record six editions of the Travers Stakes; he is closing in on 4,700 career wins and ranks fifth all time in purse earnings with more than $279 million.
And that’s just a small part of Castellano’s remarkable story and run of dominance in American racing during the past two decades.
Although he has ridden for only 20 years and is currently entrenched in the prime of his superb career, Castellano has risen to heights few have ever achieved in the saddle — and he has done it while remaining humble and being one of the sport’s best ambassadors.
Castellano, who was born on Oct. 23, 1977 in Maracaibo, Venezuela, had a family pedigree that suggested becoming a jockey would be a viable career path. Both his father and uncle were jockeys and his younger brother, Abel, also became a professional rider. After starting his career in Venezuela, Castellano moved to Florida and rode his first North American winner, PHONE MAN, on July 31, 1997 at Calder Park. He won his first Graded Stakes Race the following year and in 2001 earned his first Grade 1 Win, riding EXOGENOUS to wins in the Beldame Stakes and Gazelle Handicap.
Castellano has thrived at a variety of tracks throughout his career. He has won 11 riding titles on the New York Racing Association circuit (six at Belmont, three at Aqueduct and two at Saratoga), five at Gulfstream and two at Keeneland. He is the only rider to win five consecutive titles at Gulfstream and his 132 wins during the 2013-14 winter meet there set a record.
“I love what I do and I’m thankful for the success I’ve had,” Castellano said. “I’ve had some great trainers back me along the way and I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of my family. I’ve worked hard, but it’s certainly not all me. I’ve had great people around me the whole time. That’s been a big factor.”
Since JJ’s career began back in 1997, he has had 25,754 mounts. Of those rides, he has brought 4,693 horses to the Winners Circle. Which amounts to a very respectable 18.22% Win Percentage. Castellano was elected to the National Museum Of Racing And Hall Of Fame in 2017.
“It’s an unbelievable honor to be elected to the Hall of Fame. To be in the same conversation with some of the best jockeys ever is very special,” Castellano said. “I’ve worked hard and it’s paid off. I plan to keep working hard and pushing myself to be the best I can be.”
The Daily Racing Blog salutes Mr. Castellano, and we have no doubt he will be a major factor at Gulfstream Park this Saturday when they will run the 9 Million Dollar Pegasus World Cup Invitational. Check back with DRB later in the week as we will preview the field for that contest.