HALLANDALE BEACH, FL –After spending the past several years globetrotting, jockey Eddie Castro has returned to Gulfstream Park, a place he considers home.
The 30-year-old journeyman began his North American riding career in South Florida. After graduating from the Panamanian jockey school, he rode his very first race in the U.S. at Gulfstream in April of 2003. That year, he would go on to win the Eclipse Award as the nation’s top apprentice jockey, despite not racing during the first three months of the year.
“This is home,” Castro said.“I grew up and started my career here. I never forgot it. A lot of people know who I am here, so I’m very comfortable here. A lot of people have forgotten though, so I have to start again. I’m doing the best I can do.”
Castro, who has won more than 2,200 races, including the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) aboard Miesque’s Approval, was most recently based at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, but he also rode a five-month stint in Saudi Arabia, which he called, “a very different and new experience.” Unfortunately, Castro incurred injuries at both tracks. Last June, Castro was getting on a first-time starter at Monmouth when the 2-year-old colt reared and unseated him before kicking him in the leg. The jockey suffered a deep laceration that required specialized plastic surgery and “local tissue rearrangement” to make the leg strong enough to return to riding.
“I had surgery on my leg,” Castro said.“Thank God it wasn’t a really bad injury. Everything has come back good. I had almost six weeks off. It’s a tough business, but I know that. You have to start hunting and keep going.”
Castro was lured back to South Florida by the prospect of year-round racing near his family.
“It was the best decision for me,” he said. “My family is here. My house is here. The plan is to stay here. Gulfstream is open year-round and in the summer, so that’s a positive for me.”
“It’s not too different,” he added.“It’s been a long time since I’ve been back, but I just have to get started working again. We’ll see what happens. All the same people aren’t around, but I’m staying busy and looking forward to racing.”
Castro rode seven of the eight races on Wednesday’s card and another six on Thursday. He returned to the Gulfstream winner’s circle for the first time aboard the Tom Albertrani-trained Lucknow in Wednesday’s eighth race, a maiden special weight for fillies and mares. Castro said he hopes it is just the start of good things to come this summer.
“I want to do well,” he said. “I want to be a top rider here, that’s it.”
Fellow jockey Jose Caraballo is also slated to remain at Gulfstream throughout the summer. The Puerto Rican native rode his first winter at Gulfstream last year and has since bought a house in Hallandale.
“I had a good meet in the winter, competing with the top riders,” Caraballo said.“I like it here. I bought a place about five minutes from the track. I like the lifestyle. After I ride, I can go to the beach. The people have been good to me - the trainers and owners - and they’ve been helping me out. Hopefully, it gets better and better. I really think it’s going to be that way.”
Caraballo has done especially well after capturing the $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes (G3) aboard Eh Cumpari on March 7.
“Lately, the last month and a half or so, things have been picking up. All of the horses have been running the way they should be running, and they’ve been winning. I’m getting more support from the trainers and owners, and everything’s getting better and better. I’m looking forward to a great summer.”