Javier Castellano

Top Kentucky Derby Jockeys – Javier Castellano

Seasoned horse racing bettors would say the two biggest races in the United States each year are the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic – unless there’s a horse going for the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes. Jockey Javier Castellano already owns a Classic victory, and he could be in line this May for his best chance yet to win the Run for the Roses as he rides one of the top Kentucky Derby contenders, Honor Code.

Castellano was born October 23, 1977, in Maracaibo, Venezuela into a horse racing family. The son of a former jockey got his start in his native land in 1996 but moved to the United States in June 1997 and was a regular on the south Florida racing circuit. His first graded stakes win was in 1998 at the Grade 3 What a Pleasure at Miami’s Calder aboard Certain. Castellano moved to the higher-profile New York circuit in 2001 and won his first grade 1 stakes race that year at the Gazelle at Belmont Park on Exogenous.

The jockey’s big break came in 2004 when he was the rider of Ghostzapper. The colt won several major races that year, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic (Castellano’s first mount ever in that race), and was named the Horse of the Year and the world’s top-ranked horse. Castellano’s first Triple Crown victory came in the 2006 Preakness on Bernardini. Unfortunately that race may be best known for when Kentucky Derby betting favorite and winner Barbaro pulled up lame at the start and had to be euthanized. Bernardini didn’t race in the Belmont but also won the Travers Stakes and Jockey Gold Club before a second-place finish to Invasor in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Castellano continued winning major races following 2006 but his only in the money ride in the Triple Crown races was a second at the 2011 Belmont Stakes aboard Stay Thirsty. Last year was truly Castellano’s career season as he won his first Eclipse Award as outstanding jockey.  Castellano set an American record by riding mounts that earned $26,213,507, surpassing Ramon Dominguez’s previous mark of $25,634,852 from 2012. Castellano was the leading jockey during the winter meet at Gulfstream, the Belmont Park spring-summer meeting and at the full Saratoga meeting. He also led the nation in wins with 362 victories. Castellano won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies aboard Ria Antonia among his major stakes victories. He was on Normandy Invasion for the Kentucky Derby and the horse finished fourth. That horse was one of the favorites (for those who bet on the Kentucky Derby) at 9/1 at post time.

At one point, Honor Code had the shortest Kentucky Derby odds for this year’s race and may again once the Derby prep races play themselves out. Betting on the Kentucky Derby field of 2014 will become clearer as each weekend passes. Honor Code closed last year with a victory in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes, edging out fellow Kentucky Derby contender Cairo Prince. Honor Code’s only defeat in three starts came by a neck to Havana, another Kentucky Derby betting favorite, in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park.