Javier Castellano, Eclipse Award winner as outstanding jockey the last four years, will ride Peacock Racing Stables' Gunnevera in the Grade 1 Kentucky on May 6, his agent, Mike Lakow, told the Paulick Report on Wednesday. Gunnevera, trained by Antonio Sano – who, like Castellano, is a native of Venezuela – won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth on March 4 before a third-place finish to Always Dreaming in the G1 Florida Derby on April 1.
Castellano, a finalist on this year's ballot for the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame – is also the regular rider for Sumaya U.S. Stable's Malagacy, the G2 Rebel Stakes winner who finished fifth in last Saturday's G1 Arkansas Derby – his first defeat in four career starts for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Pletcher has given Castellano his last three Derby mounts: Destin, sixth in last year's running; Materiality, sixth in 2015; and We Miss Artie, 10th in 2014. Castellano also rode Gemologist to a 16th-place finish in the 2012 Derby for Pletcher, whose lone victory from 45 runners in the Derby came in 2010 with Super Saver under Calvin Borel.
Castellano is 0-for-10 in the Kentucky Derby, dating back to 2005, when he rode favored Bellamy Road for Nick Zico to a seventh-place finish. His best finish was fourth aboard Normandy Invasion for trainer Chad Brown in 2013. The jockeys with the most Derby mounts without a victory are Corey Nakatani (0-for-18) and Alex Solis (0-for-15).
Castellano has ridden Gunnevera in five of his last six starts, including victories aboard the Dialed In colt in last year's G2 Saratoga Special and G3 Delta Downs Jackpot. He finished second to Irish War Cry in the G2 Holy Bull and third, beaten 6 1/2 lengths by Pletcher-trained Always Dreaming, in the Florida Derby.
Shortly after Malagacy's off-the-board finish in the Arkansas Derby last Saturday, Sano Racing Stable's Twitter account posted a statement saying Castellano would ride Gunnevera in the Kentucky Derby. Lakow, however, who became agent for Castellano late last summer, said the decision to ride Gunnevera was not “official” until Wednesday.
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