The only thing better than winning two consecutive Grade 2 stakes is winning two consecutive Grade 1 stakes, a feat that Javier Castellano accomplished on Saturday, March 11 at Santa Anita. Castellano was named Jockeys’ Guild Jockey of the Week for March 6 – March 12, 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.
Javier Castellano’s ride on Shaman Ghost ($4.60) in the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) was a well-timed strike against Rafael Bejarano and Midnight Storm, who took the lead early and maintained a comfortable margin until the stretch run. Bettors clearly supported Shaman Ghost in the Big ‘Cap and the Pegasus runner-up went off as the narrow favorite in the race, edging out Midnight Storm in the pools as well as at the wire.
However, it was the stakes double that made Castellano’s week so impressive. After finishing second in three races earlier on Santa Anita’s Saturday card and running fifth aboard Kobe’s Back in the $400,000 Triple Bend Stakes (G1), he entered the $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1) aboard the longest shot on the board, Bal a Bali.Bal a Bali ($21.20) and Castellano stalked the pace and closed in the stretch to edge out Tyler Baze and What a View by a head at the wire. The Richard Mandella trainee has won multiple graded stakes and now has earnings of just over $1 million, but finished third in the 2016 running of the Frank E. Kilroe Mile and had not actually been seen in the winner’s circle since October of 2015 in an optional claiming event.
Castellano’s Grade 1 daily double marked his second consecutive weekend with back-to-back stakes victories. Last weekend, Castellano was victorious in a pair of Grade 2 Stakes: The Fountain of Youth and the Mac Diarmida Stakes. It also awarded him with another unique distinction: consecutive Jockey of the Week honors.
Castellano returned to Gulfstream to ride on Sunday, and finished the week with five wins, five seconds, and six thirds out of 26 starts, giving him a 19% win rate and a 62% in-the-money rate.
With his combined Gulfstream and Santa Anita wins, Castellano was the leading rider by both total earnings ($802,285) and stakes earnings ($698,345). When added to his totals for 2017, Castellano moved from fourth to third among all North American jockeys by earnings with $3,144,876 year to date in 245 starts.