Venezuela-born Javier Castellano won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, making him one of just two jockeys to win four consecutive Eclipse Awards and, in 2017, was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Castellano, 41, first moved to the United States in June, 1997, and rode his first winner stateside, Phone Man, at Calder Race Course, now Gulfstream Park West, in Florida the following month. However, over two decades later, Castellano is riding at the top of his form and is arguably the best jockey in North America, if not the world.
Castellano comes from good racing stock. His late father, Abel, who was murdered during a robbery attempt in Venezuela in 2000, his uncle and his younger brother, Abel Jr., were all jockeys and Abel Jr. is now a trainer in Maryland after a riding career cut short by concussion in December, 2015.
Having relocated from Florida to the higher-profile New York State circuit in 2001, Castellano first found fame as the jockey of Ghostzapper, trained by Robert Frankel, who was unbeaten in four starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic, in his four-year-old season in 2004 and was subsequently named Eclipse Horse of the Year. Two years later, in 2006, Castellano recorded his first ‘Triple Crown’ win on Bernardini, trained by Thomas Albertrani, in the Preakness Stakes, but his victory was overshadowed by the hind leg fracture suffered by the Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro, which led to the end of his racing career and, ultimately, to his demise.
It would be another eleven years before Castellano won his second Triple Crown race, the Preakness Stakes again, in 2017, on Cloud Computing, trained by Chad Brown. The Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes remain glaring omissions on his CV but, even so, at the time of his induction to the Hall of Fame, had ridden 4,644 winners and earned $276 million in prize money. In the autumn of 2018, Castellano reached the milestone of 5,000 winners and, shortly afterwards, recorded his ninth and tenth Breeders’ Cup wins, on Bulletin in the Juvenile Turf Sprint and City Of Light in the Dirt Mile.