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Castellano Looking Ahead to El Padrino in Florida Derby
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Javier Castellano could not be blamed for thinking about what might have been. But Gulfstream’s leading rider – the man who set a record earlier this meet for most wins by a Gulfstream jockey and also won his 3,000 career race - prefers to look ahead, especially to his ride aboard Risen Star (G2) winner El Padrino, the 2-1 second choice in Saturday’s $1 million Florida Derby (G1).
Castellano came to Florida this winter as the regular rider of Union Rags, the early 6-5 favorite for the Florida Derby, as well as the promising young colt Algorithms. After Algorithms blew away Eclipse champion Hansen Jan. 29 in the Holy Bull (G3), Castellano had to make a decision on which 3-year-old would be his preference looking ahead to the spring classics.
He opted for Algorithms, only to have the son of Bernardini suffer an injury that will keep him on the sidelines until summer. By that time, Julien Leparoux had been named the new rider for Union Rags, who established himself as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby with a resounding triumph Feb. 26 in the Fountain of Youth (G2).
Castellano is fatalistic about the turn of events. “Unfortunately things happen. It was a tough decision. It was back and forth for about two weeks. Union Rags is a great horse. I chose the other horse and he got hurt. It’s part of the game.”
Choosing Algorithms over Union Rags was more than a horse-vs.-horse decision. Algorithms is trained by Todd Pletcher, who has played a major role in Castellano rising to the elite level of the nation’s jockeys and running away with the riders’ competition this winter.
“Todd has given me a lot of support the last couple of years to put me in a good position in my career. Right now he has the best horses in the country. I’m really blessed to be participating in his organization.”
Pletcher will be giving Castellano a leg up on El Padrino, a three-time winner in five starts, including a decisive allowance win early in the meeting. Among those trailing him home was Take Charge Indy, the morning line third choice in the Florida Derby.
El Padrino’s triumph in the Risen Star, his first graded stakes win, represented another significant step forward. “He was very game. He was a fighter the last part of the race. He put everything together. He’s a courageous horse,” Castellano said. “He’s well bred, by Pulpit, and I think he’s going to put on a really good show Saturday.”