Castellano To Ride Gunnevera In Kentucky Derby

by | 04.19.2017 | 10:23pm
Gunnevera and jockey Javier Castellano after the Fountain of Youth

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.


  • theosmachine

    Might finally be Javier’s year.

  • Figless

    This race should set up perfectly for this horse. Feel much better about my future wager with Javier aboard, he just needs to find that one opening on the turn. Problem is i can probably get higher odds the day of the race than i currently have, but wont matter if i am cashing. Great story, as well.

    • David Juffet

      Agree. If any Jock can find a way Javier can.

  • Sampan

    He has a chance but he must be in position by the 7/16ths pole.
    If he is no more than 7 lengths off the lead at the 7/6ths he can take it.

  • Neal Baker

    The horse was thin as a straw in the Fla Derby. He’s certainly on the downward arc. He won’t get my money

  • Al Milano

    Good horse, great rider, but he won’t be the only one closing into what should be a fast pace. If anyone can get perfect position in a race, it’s Castellano. But even that might not be enough for this one to catch a group of faster horses.

    • On the speed favoring track at Gulfstream he closed very fast and Sonneteer did too at Oaklawn.

    • Sampan

      The faster the pace the better it is for horses that come from off the pace.
      A slow pace means the horses up front are full of run and waiting for them.

  • The added distance will give his closing kick more time to kick in and kick out a speedster from the placings. His serious closing competitors are Hence, Lookin at Lee and Sonneteer. He should be a bit more buffed after being barned and breezed for a month.

    • Sampan

      A turn of foot type like Gunnevera needs to have position
      and move at a certain time and place.
      In a 10 fur race he needs to be 7 lengths off the leader at the 3/8ths pole.
      In a 9 fur race he needs to be 7 lengths off the leader at the 7/16ths pole.
      In a 1 M & 1/16th race he needs to be 7 lengths off the leader at the ½ mile pole.
      If the pace is slow he needs to be closer.

  • Bond

    Irish War Cry Will Win That Race, Just My Opinion.

    • Sinking Ship

      Nobody cares what your opinion is. You should focus your comment about the subject of the story.

      • vic cruz

        Don’t be rude. It’s still the derby. Have some PR. Who’s your pick?

    • Ida Lee

      Since IWC is my Derby horse, I find your opinion to be quite insightful, well thought out and quite appropriate for this particular article….P.S. Just to be clear, “Gunny” is a beautiful and talented boy who will be a worthy competitor in any race no matter who is riding him.

      • Neal Baker

        Ida he’s gaunt and thin. Look at the photo of him above the story. Look at him loading into the gate before the Fla Derby. The connections should back off and put some meat on his bones.

        • Ida Lee

          I noticed Neal….I’m not going to worry yet…I have a photo of Stardom Bound taken from the front where she looks like a Greyhound …..and Papa Clem arrived for the Derby or Preakness (can’t remember) showing a good number of his ribs….and more recent history, Chrome looked very underweight when he got back from Dubai the first time…..yes, Chrome needed the rest… but the others were just fine…. of course it’s always a good idea to take a second look at your horse and make sure he’s in tip-top shape. The Derby would not be the same without Gunny and having Javier can’t hurt….

  • David Juffet

    I’ve liked this horse since he broke his maiden and won a graded stake at the Spa last summer. Two negatives are he will be far back early and will need to pass most if not the all of the field. Also he’ll most likely need to run very wide on the last turn. I like him having 5 weeks between starts and Javier up. No doubt he’ll get the distance and will be closing in the lane. For me he’s a must use exotic wager wise. Javier might just get him up.

  • Jim

    It all comes down to the post position draw people—-

    • Judy Fraizer

      LOL….seriously? Post position is important but not that critical. The RIDE is what matters. Get your horse trapped, or swept outside to the parking lot, starting them too soon or too late and you lose…it’s definitely the ride.

  • Richard C

    In the text, Nick Zico should obviously be Nick Zito…..though Nico quickly comes to mind.

  • Bond

    @ Sinking Ship This Is A Forum Where We Have Discussion On Topic, The Topic Is The Derby I State My Opinion ” Irish War Cry Will Win That Race “. If Your Ship Is Sinking Don’t Hang On To Me GET YOURSELF A LIFE-Jacket & Save Yourself From YOU.

    • Ida Lee

      LOL….I needed that ….

  • smoof

    he made his decision so quickly, unless he already knows that malagacy is going to pass, it was a purely emotional decision.

    in final analysis, malagacy ended up running 55 feet more than CMM, and at a minimum, 11 feet more than CE. 2 lenths is 16 feet…

    by every fig shows that despite the added weight and the added distance malagacy paired his rebel, so it doesn’t make sense to conclude the distance was his downfall.

    gunnevera will go off 10-15 to 1

    malagacy will go of 30-50 to 1

    gunnervera came home in 12 1/5

    malagacy came home in 12 4/5

    closers always come home faster than front runners, but even so gunnervera only ran 3/5 of second faster despite running 55 less feet.

  • J


  • ctgreyhound

    Gunnevera is a lucky horse. Having Castellano for his pilot is a definite advantage. Having a regular jockey can only help navigate through the traffic problems associated with the Derby. This is a hard race to figure, but Gunnevera is my top pick.

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