Apprentice jockey Ashley Castrenze picked up her second win since returning from a lengthy absence due to injury when she piloted the Mark Reid-trained Circle of Light to a 4 ¾-length victory in Friday's sixth race at Laurel Park.
Castrenze, 20, made her 2017 debut April 14 at Laurel and had gone winless in her first seven mounts at the track, including 4-5 favorite Zimbabwe in Friday's second race. She rode at Parx during Laurel's dark days earlier this week, winning with Paper Moon on April 17.
Castrenze broke four ribs on her left side in a spill at Laurel Oct. 16, the day after she finished as the ninth-leading rider at the Delaware Park meet with 29 wins. She ended 2016 with 47 wins from 329 mounts and nearly $1.16 million in purse earnings.
“It feels great. I've just got to get back in the swing of it,” Castrenze said. “I feel just a little like I'm new out there again. It's been a while. My agent made me get a personal trainer for three months and made me go four or five times week, I galloped and breezed a lot in the mornings and I'd sit and watch the races at home and ride my Equicizer. It's still nothing like being out there. It's tough to get back into it. I just have to ride more races.”
Meanwhile, jockey Sheldon Russell made his return to riding for the first time since Sept. 24 when he finished fourth on Whisper Hill Farm's Impressive Way for trainer Cal Lynch in the second race. He was off the board in his other mount, Hamilton Smith-owned and trained Buzz Lite, in the sixth.
Russell, 29, ruptured the radial collateral ligament in his right hand when Dannhauser broke down on the far turn of the Bert Allen Stakes. He had only been back eight weeks after returning from a torn labrum and broken shoulder, winning 16 of 138 mounts before being hurt again.
“It's just nice to be back. It's been such a long time; six months is a long time to sit on the sidelines,” Russell said. “It's always nice to come back and have the support from some of the top trainers here. Cal Lynch has been great, Hamilton Smith, Tim Keefe; I could name so many of them. Everyone's been very nice to me. Physically I feel very good, I feel ready. I'm happy I got the two races under my belt today. If I could get a winner Saturday or Sunday I'll be smiling even bigger.”
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