Castellano has a day to savor
GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- Javier Castellano spent a long time trying to forget the first mount he was named to ride in the Breeders' Cup: the ill-fated Exogenous, who was scratched from the 2001 Distaff at Belmont Park after suffering a fatal injury when she flipped en route to the paddock before the race.
But Castellano will always remember his next one: Ghostzapper, whom he confidently guided to victory in Saturday's Breeders' Cup Classic.
Castellano, who turned 27 last week, became Ghostzapper's regular rider when the colt returned from a six-month layoff to begin his 3-year-old campaign in June of 2003. The pair have been a formidable team ever since, winning 7 of 8 starts, culminating in their triumph in the Classic.
Winning the Breeders' Cup Classic capped off a memorable year for the Venezuelan-born Castellano, who married Abby Meyocks on July 12. Abby Meyocks is the daughter of Terry Meyocks, the former president of the New York Racing Association and currently special assistant to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
"He's a great kid, a great family person, and a great rider," said Terry Meyocks. "I couldn't be happier for him, especially what he's been through over the past several years."
Meyocks was referring not only to Castellano's earlier Breeders' Cup experience with Exogenous, but also the untimely death of his father, Abel, who was killed during a robbery attempt in Venezuela in 2000. Castellano pointed to the sky in jubilation in tribute to his father after crossing the finish line with Ghostzapper.
"I am so excited right now, I don't even remember what I did after the race," said Castellano. "But I know I did that for my father."
Castellano has been a regular on the New York circuit since leaving south Florida on a permanent basis in 2001. He has since won two riding titles at Aqueduct but plans to return to Florida and try his luck at Gulfstream this winter.
"I've been waiting to go back to Florida, which is my real home, until the right moment," said Castellano. "I think after this that moment is now. Winning a race like the Classic should help take my career to the next step."