Javier Castellano won two of the weekend’s Grade 2 stakes races and topped the leaderboard by total earnings for the week on his way to being named Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for February 27 – March 5, 2017. The award is voted on by a panel of experts for riding accomplishments by members of the Jockeys’ Guild, the organization which represents more than 950 riders in North America.
Castellano completed the late stakes double on Saturday at Gulfstream Park, where he won both the Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2) and the Fountain of Youth (G2). In the Fountain of Youth, one of Saturday’s two Kentucky Derby prep races awarding qualifying points to the top four finishers, Castellano’s mount was a familiar one. He and Gunnevera previously teamed up to win the $1,000,000 Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) in November and returned to run second in the Holy Bull (G2) at Gulfstream in February, defeating Classic Empire.
Irish War Cry, the winner of the Holy Bull, was the heavy favorite in the Fountain of Youth. Castellano and Antonio Sano-trained Gunnevera sat in the back of the full field and rated until the far turn, when they closed to win by a nearly six-length margin over Practical Joke. Irish War Cry faded to seventh. Gunnevera ($10.40) picked up 50 points for his first-place finish; his 64 total points now place him on the top of the 2017 Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
In the Mac Diarmida, Castellano rated post-time favorite Wake Forest ($6.00) and floated seven-wide before closing in the stretch to win by a head on the Chad Brown trainee. Earlier on the card, Castellano won a maiden special weight event with first-time starter Timeline ($6.00).
In his 19 starts of the week, Castellano picked up seven wins and one third-place finish. He was the leading rider by stakes earnings with $359,615 and led all North America jockeys by total earnings for the week, adding $449,265 to his total. He rode at 42% in the money and won on 37% of his mounts.
The four-time Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey is currently fourth among all North American jockeys in 2017 by earnings, with $2,342,592 in 219 starts. Over his career, he has amassed lifetime earnings of $272,384,189 and has maintained nearly a 50% in the money rate, finishing in the top three in over 12,500 races.
Saturday marked Castellano’s first win in the Fountain of Youth. Whether the jockey can parlay his first win in the Derby prep race into a win in the Kentucky Derby remains to be seen. Castellano has yet to win the first leg of the Triple Crown, though he won the Preakness Stakes in 2006 with Bernardini and has finished second the in Belmont three times, most recently in 2016 with Destin. Castellano has participated in the Kentucky Derby ten times to date; his best effort in the race was in 2013, when he finished fourth with Normandy Invasion.