Javier Castellano won the 2017 Preakness Stakes.
He is a 39-year-old horse jockey, born October 23, 1977, in Venezuela. He has been racing horses since 1996, heavily influenced by his father, Abel, who worked as a jockey before his death in 2000. His uncle and his younger brother, Abel Jr., also race horses for a living.
Known as one of the most successful jockeys in the business, Castellano has thousands of wins on his record. So far this year, he has earned over $6.4 million and has won 20 percent of the races that he has competed in.
The 4’11” jockey, who weighs approximately 110 pounds, will be riding Gunnevera, a colt owned by Peacock Racing Stables, in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Despite having a rewarding career in horse racing, Castellano has never won the Derby.
Here is what you need to know:
1. He Started His Horse Racing Career in Venezuela Before Moving to the United States
Javier began racing horses as a teenager. His late father didn’t want him to race because of the risks involved in the sport. Abel Castellano Sr. suffered broken ribs and a broken shoulder in his nearly three decades as a jockey, according to NBC San Diego.
“It’s very risky, but it’s a beautiful sport,” Javier said ahead of the 2015 Preakness Stakes. He frequently dedicates races to his father. “I always looked up to him, because he was a great jockey,” he said.
Javier’s first race took place at Santa Rita and La Rinconada race courses in Venezuela in 1996. The following year, he moved to the United States and continued racing horses in Southern Florida. In 2001, he moved to New York and his first big win came just three years later at the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
2. He Was Recently Elected to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame
Castellano was recently elected to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. On August 4 in Saratoga Springs, New York, Javier will be joined by fellow jockey and honoree Victor Espinoza where they will accept the honor. Other 2017 honorees include the late jockey Garrett Gomez and mare Goldikova.
As part of his Hall of Fame career, Javier has won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey four years in a row. His streak began in 2013 and he has won the award each subsequent year.
“Eclipse Awards are bestowed upon the Thoroughbred horses and individuals whose outstanding achievements have earned them the title of Champion in their respective divisions. The Eclipse Awards are named after the great 18th-Century racehorse and foundation sire Eclipse, who began racing at age five and was undefeated in 18 starts, including eight walkovers. Eclipse sired the winners of 344 races, including three Epsom Derbies.”
3. He Parted Ways With Longtime Agent Matt Muzikar In August 2016 Due to a ‘Communication Breakdown’
Following his race in Saratoga last year, Javier announced that he would be parting ways with his longtime agent Matt Muzikar. Days later, Javier called agent Mike Lakow and offered him the vacant position.
“I was very blessed to work with Matt Muzikar. He put me on the map. He was a guy that worked hard every single day, every single meet, at every single track. I give all the credit to him because he did a great job for my career, and I will always be thankful for that,” Castellano told reporters at Gulfstream Park.
Javier was excited about working with Lakow and expressed such in the same interview.
“Now we’re looking forward with a new agent. Mike Lakow knows a lot of people. He’s a great horseman. He used to be a racing secretary so he knows about the horses and about the races, and I’m very lucky to be working with him. It’s been great. Everything’s going in the right direction. I’m really looking forward to the future,” the jockey added.
Lakow also expressed excitement about the new professional dynamic.
“At this point in my life, it’s just an unbelievable opportunity. I think I’ll work well with Javier – I respect him and I believe he respects me. I can’t wait, really. Of course I’ll make mistakes, I’m green doing it, but Javier knows that and he’s very confident that we’ll work together well,” Lakow said at the time, according to Paulick Report.
4. He Has Over 4,000 Wins Including the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Preakness Stakes & the Travers Stakes
On February 8, 2015, Castellano won his 4,000th career race at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida. In his statement to the media, the famed jockey said that he was “thankful” and “blessed” as he celebrated this career high.
“I think it’s one of the best moments of my life, right now. I’ve been very fortunate to ride a lot of good horses the last few years and two Eclipse Awards back to back. I’ve won a lot of good races, a lot of grade I’s. Everything has gone [well] so far in my career. I’m very thankful and blessed,” he told the media.
In 2016, Javier reached another milestone, winning the Kentucky Oaks. He did so riding Cathryn Sophia. The filly was 7-1 odds to win entering the race and was able to beat favorite Rachel’s Valentina, ultimately winning the $1 million prize.
A Kentucky Derby win would an incredible accomplishment to add to Javier’s already-impressive resume.
In 2017, Castellano won the Preakness Stakes atop Cloud Computing.
5. His Wife, Abby, Is the Daughter of Terry Meyocks, the National Manager of the Jockeys’ Guild
Meeting and marrying a jockey had a familiarity to it and it’s something that Abby has spoken about.
“It was very helpful to me since I know what the jockeys go through, and the ups and downs of their business. I kind of had an inside track to that,” she told an interviewer in 2010.
Abby and Javier have three children together, Kayla 11, Sienna 8 and Brady 4. Although Javier has long days and nights during racing season, he does try to make time for his family whenever he can.
“[He] is always trying to do something with them when he gets the chance. It’s tougher up here since it’s six days a week and he has to be there in the mornings on Tuesdays,” Abby also said in that interview.