By Richard Rosenblatt
After a three-month absence to recover from right leg surgery, Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano returned to the races.
On Wednesday [Feb. 17], Castellano finished fourth aboard Sexy Dream in the ninth race, a 1-mile optional starter allowance for 3-year-old fillies taken off the turf at Gulfstream Park. He was just happy to be back in the saddle.
“I’m very excited, very motivated,” Castellano told the Gulfstream Park press office. “That was my first mount. We all are looking to win first time. It didn’t work out, but we’re looking at the big picture.
“We’re looking to get fit, riding a lot of horses. I’m looking to work hard. Hopefully, I’ll get a lot of support from the owners and trainers.”
The four-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey has won 5,328 races and totals $354 million in purse earnings. Castellano had arthroscopic surgery to clean up debris in his right leg, near the hip, Nov. 16 in New York. He went through physical therapy and returned to Florida earlier this month to start getting on horses.
Castellano is scheduled to be aboard two horses Thursday [Feb. 18], Deemed Essential in race 7, a maiden special weight on turf for 3-year-old fillies, and All Come True in race 10, a 1-mile optional claiming allowance for older fillies and mares on turf.
Oaklawn Park’s new dates for postponed stakes
After losing eight days of racing due to record-breaking winter weather, Oaklawn announced series of changes to its racing schedule.
Five canceled stakes races are now set for Feb. 27-28.
The $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) and the $600,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) will now be run on Feb. 27, along with the $200,000 Spring Fever Stakes.
On Feb. 28, the rescheduled races are the $250,000 Bayakoa (G3), $150,000 Dixie Belle and $150,000 Downthedustyroad.
Nominations for all stakes were reopened and will close Friday [Feb. 19].
Two new race dates have been added: March 31 and April 28.
“There’s no fighting Mother Nature, especially when our priority is safety,” Oaklawn president Louis Cella said. “However, we feel these changes will greatly benefit our horsemen and our fans by creating a huge weekend of racing to kick off the rest of the season.”
Derby hopeful Greatest Honour tops nominees for Fountain of Youth
Holy Bull (G3) winner Greatest Honour is on course to make his next start in the $300,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 27.
Trained by Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey Greatest Honour is one of 36 nominees to the 1 1/16-mile prep for the Florida Derby (G1) on March 28.
Greatest Honour rallied from seventh in a field of nine for a 5 ¾-length win under Jose Ortiz in the Holy Bull.
“I had a lot of confidence that he’d run well, but I didn’t know what that meant. I maybe was a little surprised how well he ran and how much he dominated those horses,” McGaughey said. “I was very pleased and pleased the way he came out of it.”
McGaughey has one Kentucky Derby (G1) win on his resume – with Orb in 2013. Orb won the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby before winning the Run for the Roses.
Among the other nominees for the Fountain of Youth are Fire At Will, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1); 2-year-old male champion Essential Quality [likely to run in the re-scheduled Southwest Stakes on Feb. 27); and Brendan Walsh-trained Prevalence, an 8 ½-length debut winner at Gulfstream. Also, trainer Doug O’Neill has two on the nominees list — Hot Rod Charlie [BC Juvenile runner-up], and The Great One [Los Alamitos Futurity runner-up].