Oct 28, 2018
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Castellano breezes Catholic Boy and City of Light

by NYRA Press Office

  • Castellano breezes Catholic Boy and City of Light
  • Rice, Rodriguez and Casse stables look forward to return to The Big A
  • NYRA Bets is your Exclusive Breeders' Cup headquarters

Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano said he will be pleased with finishing third in the jockey standings at the conclusion of the Belmont Park Fall Meet knowing that he leaves for the Breeders' Cup with a significant career milestone, his 5,000th career win, and a strong shot at the Classic with New York-based Catholic Boy.

Castellano notched the milestone while posting three consecutive stakes wins on Empire Showcase Day, October 20, taking the Mohawk with Offering Plan, the Hudson with Runaway Lute to secure his 5,000th win, and the Ticonderoga with Fifty Five.

"I'm very grateful. A lot of trainers have given me opportunities to ride some of the best horses and the season really went well. To win three stakes races back-to-back, including my 5,000th win was amazing," said Castellano. "I'm looking forward to the Breeders' Cup, it's the best of the best, and you have to be lucky. You can have the best horse, but you need a little luck as well."

The hard-working rider flew to Louisville, Kentucky early Sunday morning to breeze both Catholic Boy and Dirt Mile contender City of Light, before returning to New York in time to ride the Closing Day card at Belmont.

Trained by Jonathan Thomas, Catholic Boy worked five furlongs in 1:01 flat over the Churchill main track.

"He worked really well. The way he did it was amazing, and I'm really satisfied going into the race," said Castellano.

A multi-surface star, Catholic Boy captured the Grade 1 Belmont Derby over 1 1/4 miles of firm turf ahead of his impressive 4-length victory in the Runhappy Travers at Saratoga Race Course. Although Catholic Boy already had a Grade 2 win on the dirt, having taken the Remsen as a juvenile at Aqueduct, Castellano believes the Travers win demonstrated the More Than Ready bay has reached another level.

"He proved that he belonged on both surfaces," said Castellano. "It's amazing. You don't see too many horses that can win on both surfaces like that, especially for that type of top-quality horses. For him to win the Travers, one of the best dirt races for 3-year-olds, the way he did it he really impressed and proved he belongs on dirt, also."

Castellano also breezed Dirt Mile contender City of Light for trainer Michael McCarthy. The 4-year-old son of Quality Road is a multiple Grade 1-winner having scored in both the Malibu and Triple Bend over seven furlongs at Santa Anita.  On Sunday morning, Castellano guided City of Light through a sharp four-furlong breeze in 47.60 seconds.

"The way he did it was phenomenal. He did everything the right way and I'm really pleased with the horse," said Castellano.

Castellano, who has eight previous Breeders' Cup wins to his credit, will leave New York on Thursday for Louisville and then move his tack once again to Florida to ride the Gulfstream Park meet.

Rice, Rodriguez and Casse stables look forward to return to the Big A

With nine Aqueduct Racetrack training meet titles between them, trainers Linda Rice and Rudy Rodriguez, stalwarts on the New York Racing Association circuit, are both looking forward to live racing's return to the Big A on Friday, November 2.

After finishing second to Chad Brown with 11 wins at the 2018 Aqueduct Spring meet including a victory with Holiday Disguise in the Grade 3 Distaff Handicap, Rice will look to improve off a Belmont Fall in which she notched six wins, including a victory in the Maid of the Mist with Surge of Pride.

"Aqueduct has been a big part of New York racing for me," said Rice. "I know some people take the bulk of their stable to Florida, but I leave the bulk of my stable in New York for winter racing. I find that works well for me on a year-round basis. We had a very good year last winter, so we hope that continues this year."

With the renovation of the main track and outer turf course in 2017 and the addition of a new inner turf course set to debut this upcoming meet, Rice is excited about the developments at Aqueduct.

"I'm planning on continuing a lot of our horses here in New York in the winter," said Rice. "Now they have a second turf course there. They run on the turf until the second week in December. With two turf courses they open turf racing earlier in April, so some of the turf horses don't have to be off for all that long. It works for me."

Rodriguez, who finished third amongst trainers with nine wins last spring at Aqueduct and entered Sunday at Belmont with 11 wins from 78 starts, has won six individual meet titles at the Big A in his career and echoed positive assessments for the upcoming meet.

"It's home for me," said Rodriguez. "We have tried to get some better-quality horses and we tried to claim some horses at Belmont for the upcoming meet, so we look forward to running. I galloped five horses on the inner turf the other day and it was nice and solid. The track is very good as well. Hopefully people from Philadelphia, Laurel and Finger Lakes come as well for the winter so we can support the program."

Jamie Begg, assistant trainer for Mark Casse's New York string, is looking ahead to his second winter at The Big A.

The Canadian-born Begg won't mind the cold as he oversees a stable of 20 horses on the Belmont Park backstretch. The Belmont main track, at 1 1/2 miles, is significantly longer than the 1 1/8-mile Aqueduct dirt strip, but Begg said most of his stock transition well from one facility to the next.

"The tracks play very similar," said Begg. "They're both very deep surfaces, like a lot of the east coast tracks. I get a lot of horses from Woodbine over the winter and I do find some of them need a race over the dirt before they acclimate.

"The big transition period is moving from our turf horses to ones that suit for the winter," continued Begg. "In the winter at Aqueduct, they can't water it too much, so not only is it a deep, dirt track; it's a dry, dirt track.  It takes a special kind of horse that enjoys that and likes the cold. I found when I trained at Gulfstream there were certain horses that loved the fact that it was 105 degrees every day and some that didn't handle it."

Begg will be looking to take advantage of the more than $400,000 in overnight purse money offered per day at Aqueduct. One horse that stands out in the stable is New York-bred Mo Diddley, a 3-year-old son of Uncle Mo owned by Gary Barber and Cheyenne Stables. The hard-trying dark bay colt owns a record of 3-1-1 through nine starts including a pair of allowance wins at Belmont this year.

"I have a few New York-breds that we keep here for the winter. The purses here at Aqueduct over the winter pays very well. We have a few horses we hope can win their conditions there," said Begg. "We have a New York-bred who has now gone through all his New York-bred conditions named Mo Diddley. We had some success with him on the grass, but he's picky with the type of grass he likes and prefers a firmer course. 

"So, we tried him on the dirt and he beat some okay horses, so I think he'll be a horse that's useful," continued Begg. "When the open allowances on the dirt are a little easier, he should be pretty salty in there. Plus, maybe some New York-bred stakes would suit him."

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