Castellano earns 5,000th career win on Empire Showcase Day at Belmont
by Najja Thompson
Hall of Fame rider Javier Castellano rode back-to-back winners on Saturday’s Empire Showcase Day card at Belmont Park to notch his 5,000th North American victory.
The 41-year-old native of Maracaibo, Venezuela, a four-time Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Jockey and 12-time leading rider on the New York Racing Association circuit, piloted Offering Plan in Race 3, the $200,000 Mohawk, for win No. 4,999 and followed up one race later aboard Runaway Lute in the $150,000 Hudson to reach the milestone victory.
Castellano is the 34th jockey in North American history to reach 5,000 wins.
“I feel great and very excited. I’m very thankful to be here in New York to win my 5,000th race. First, I have to thank God for giving me the skill and opportunity to ride horses. I’ve been very lucky in my life and career,” said Castellano, who is married to wife Abby, and is father to daughters Kayla and Sienna and son Brady.
“I’m thankful to all the owners and trainers who have helped me get to this point, as well as my wonderful wife,” he added. “She supports me as well as my kids. It’s not an easy job. My father-in-law Terry Meyocks and my mom, [they have] always supported me. All of the sacrifices [such as] not being able to see your family for days and sometimes even three months when we’re riding in Florida. I’m so thankful that it has paid off. I’ve had a successful career.”
Castellano was raised in a racing family in which his father and uncle were also jockeys in addition to his brother, Abel Jr. The veteran rider launched his career in his native Venezuela in 1996 before moving to the U.S. a year later where he recorded his first winner with Phone Man on July 31, 1997, at Calder Race Course. Castellano moved his tack to the NYRA circuit full-time in 2001.
Inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 2017, Castellano set the record for earnings within a year for a jockey in 2015 with $28.1 million and has exceeded $20 million in earnings for seven consecutive years. Castellano has continued to acquire prestigious milestones including this summer, during the 2018 meet at Saratoga Race Course, he captured a record sixth victory in the Runhappy Travers, piloting multiple graded stakes winner Catholic Boy to victory.
His previous Travers winners include Keen Ice (2015), upsetting Triple Crown champion American Pharoah; V. E. Day (2014); Stay Thirsty (2011); Afleet Express (2010), and Bernardini (2006). Castellano has also notched eight Breeders’ Cup victories and a pair of Classic wins in the Preakness aboard Bernardini in 2006 and Cloud Computing in 2016.