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Javier Castellano

Javier Castellano
Induction Year: 
Oct. 23, 1977, Maracaibo, Venezuela
Career Years: 
Number of Mounts: 
Number of Winners: 
Winning Percentage: 

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Javier Castellano’s accomplishments are simply staggering.  


A sampling: Castellano is one of only two jockeys to win four consecutive Eclipse Awards; he owns the single-year record for purse earnings; he has won seven Breeders’ Cup races and a record five editions of the Travers Stakes; he is closing in on 4,700 career wins and ranks fifth all time in earnings with more than $279 million.


And that’s just a small part of Castellano’s remarkable story and run of dominance in American racing during the past two decades.


Although he has ridden for only 20 years and is currently entrenched in the prime of his superb career, Castellano his risen to heights few have ever achieved in the saddle — and he has done it while remaining humble and being one of the sport’s best ambassadors.  


Castellano, who was born on Oct. 23, 1977 in Maracaibo, Venezuela, had a family pedigree that suggested becoming a jockey would be a viable career path. Both his father and uncle were jockeys and his younger brother, Abel, also became a professional rider. After starting his career in Venezuela, Castellano moved to Florida and rode his first North American winner, Phone Man, on July 31, 1997 at Calder. He won his first graded stake the following year and in 2001 earned his first Grade 1s, riding Exogenous to wins in the Beldame Stakes and Gazelle Handicap.


In 2003, Castellano secured the mount on the mighty Ghostzapper. He piloted the future Hall of Famer to six graded wins, including the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic in record time. The success with Ghostzapper put Castellano on the national map. In 2006, he won the Preakness and his first Travers with Bernardini. Castellano also won the Travers in 2010 (Afleet Express), 2011 (Stay Thirsty), 2014 (V.E. Day) and 2015 (Keen Ice). The 2015 Travers victory with Keen Ice proved to be the lone blemish for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah that year. In the spring of 2017, Castellano added his second Preakness victory (Cloud Computing) and won his first Santa Anita Handicap with Shaman Ghost, a son of Ghostzapper. 


Castellano has surpassed $22 million in purse earnings each of the past five years. He topped all North American riders in earnings in his Eclipse Award-winning years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016) and led the national standings in wins in 2013 and 2015. Castellano has ranked in the top 10 in earnings 11 times in his career and in wins 10 times. His $28.1 million in earnings in 2015 set a record.


“I love what I do and I’m thankful for the success I’ve had,” Castellano said. “I’ve had some great trainers back me along the way and I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of my family. I’ve worked hard, but it’s certainly not all me. I’ve had great people around me the whole time. That’s been a big factor.”


In recent years, Castellano has been one of the most successful riders at the Breeders’ Cup, winning the 2012 Filly and Mare Turf (Zagora), 2013 Juvenile Fillies (Ria Antonia), 2014 Filly and Mare Turf (Dayatthespa), 2015 Dirt Mile (Liam’s Map), 2015 Distaff (Stopchargingmaria) and the 2016 Juvenile Fillies Turf (New Money Honey) to go along with his 2004 Classic victory with Ghostzapper.


“Those are the championship races in the sport and I’ve had some really talented horses to work with,” Castellano said. “Everyone brings their best at the Breeders’ Cup and I’m proud of how I have done there.”


Some of Castellano’s other top mounts have included champions Flintshire, Honor Code, Princess of Sylmar and Dayatthespa, as well as standouts such as Pine Island, Nobiz Like Shobiz, Music Note, Hilda’s Passion, Winter Memories, Marsh Side, Caixa Eletronica, Twilight Eclipse, Bellamy Road and Cavorting.


Castellano has thrived at a variety of tracks throughout his career. He has won 11 riding titles on the New York Racing Association circuit (six at Belmont, three at Aqueduct and two at Saratoga), five at Gulfstream and two at Keeneland. He is the only rider to win five consecutive titles at Gulfstream and his 132 wins during the 2013-14 winter meet there set a record.


Through May of 2017, Castellano has won 360 graded stakes, including multiple editions of the Alabama, Ballston Spa, Beldame, Bowling Green, Champagne, Coaching Club American Oaks, Diana, Fourstardave, Gallant Bloom, Garden City, Gazelle, Hall of Fame, Jaipur, Jim Dandy, Just a Game, Kelso, King’s Bishop, Manhattan, Man o’ War, Metropolitan Handicap, Personal Ensign, P.G. Johnson, Ruffian, Saranac, Saratoga Special, Shuvee, Spinaway, Stymie, Sword Dancer, True North, Vagrancy, West Point, Withers, Wood Memorial and Woodward, among others.


“It’s an unbelievable honor to be elected to the Hall of Fame. To be in the same conversation with some of the best jockeys ever is very special,” Castellano said. “I’ve worked hard and it’s paid off. I plan to keep working hard and pushing myself to be the best I can be.”