Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano spoke about contracting COVID-19 for the first time on Monday, calling in for a conversation with Barry Abrams' In The Gate podcast.
Agent John Panagot posted the news of Castellano's positive test to Twitter on Thursday, March 26, indicating that the rider was “asymptomatic and feels fine and healthy.”
Castellano hadn't ridden since Sunday, March 15 at Gulfstream, after which he flew home to New York to spend a few days with his wife and kids. The following week, following the news of Gulfstream's temporary cancellation on Friday, March 20, Castellano decided to just stay in New York.
“I decide not to go anywhere, a lot is going on,” he told Abrams. “I decide not to ride anywhere, and stay in New York for a week.”
Gulfstream officials required jockeys to be in town by the evening of Sunday, March 22, in order to ride the Florida Derby card the following Saturday, so Castellano flew back to Florida on the 22nd. As usual, he stayed with his 64-year-old mother.
On Tuesday, March 24, Gulfstream required that Castellano and six other (unnamed) riders go for COVID-19 testing.
“Are you sure that's me, I feel fine,” Castellano remembered thinking. “I was just jogging the day before. […] I was shocked. Everything goes through your mind. […] Why did this happen to me?”
Almost a week later, staying in a closed-off room in his mother's house, Castellano is still mostly asymptomatic. Occasionally his throat bothers him a little bit, he said, but the primary difficulty is the mental toll COVID-19 has taken on him.
“It's tough, it's one of the toughest challenges in my life, actually, because you don't know what you can do,” Castellano said.
He recognizes the toll that COVID-19 is taking on the racing industry, but stressed the importance of safety above all else.
“Don't get me wrong, it affects every single one, every business in the country,” said Castellano. “I get it, I understand horses need to be taken care of, they need to go through, but the reality is there's a lot of lives on the line. People die for this.”
Next week Castellano will be tested again, and if it comes back clean he hopes to return to New York to ride out the rest of the pandemic with his family.
“I feel great, I'm very lucky and very fortunate,” he said.
Check out the entire In The Gate podcast here:
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