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January 05, 2019

CASTANON REACHES 2,500 IN STYLE WITH GATE-TO-WIRE MASTERPIECE

by Mike Henry
Changing tactics results in milestone Tampa Turf Test victory aboard Derek Ryan-trained mare Tearless; Wagon Boss wins Males Division on the dirt; Endeavour Prep is Sunday.

Jesus Castanon knew he was one victory shy of 2,500 when he entered the starting gate on Tearless in today’s third race, the second leg of the Fillies and Mares Division of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series.

But when the race started, the 45-year-old jockey put the impending milestone out of his mind to focus on the game plan he and trainer Derek Ryan had formulated for the mile-and-a-sixteenth event.

Castanon’s focus on giving the 6-year-old mare her best chance to win by sending her to the lead from the start resulted in a length-and-a-quarter victory from 11-10 favorite Kool Kate and a winner’s-circle ceremony for Castanon, where he was joined by fellow riders and track officials.

“I saw things about (the 2,500 mark) on Facebook and Twitter, but I never let it get into my head,” said Castanon, who won back-to-back Tampa Bay Downs riding titles in 2003-2004 and 2004-2005. “I’m excited to get there, but I just wanted to get out on the track and enjoy the day.”

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Jesus Castanon (fifth from left) is joined by trainer Derek Ryan (far left), fellow riders and track officials in celebrating career victory No. 2,500

Castanon, who is best known for winning the 2011 Preakness on Shackleford, moved into third place in the Oldsmar standings with 14 victories.

Tearless paid $17.80 to win as the fourth betting choice in the eight-horse field. She completed the distance in 1:44.81 after setting the pace throughout on Military Appreciation Day at Tampa Bay Downs. Aquemini rallied for third.

Tearless was bred in Florida by Sherry R. Mansfield and Kenneth H. Davis and is owned by Philip Leary.

Two races later, the 6-year-old gelding Wagon Boss won the Males Division of the Tampa Turf Test in a race switched to the main track because of the condition of the course, which had been softened Friday by rain. Antonio Gallardo rode that winner for trainer Randy Klopp, co-owner of Wagon Boss with Spiess Stable.

Wagon Boss, who won by three-and-a-quarter lengths from Union Ranks, won races here last season on both turf and dirt.

After finishing a non-threatening fourth on Tearless in the first leg of the Tampa Turf Test on Nov. 24, Castanon told Ryan he wanted to be more aggressive from the outset. “There was a lot of speed that day,” Ryan noted, “but (Castanon) came back and said ‘I won’t do that again.’ ”

The bold tactics were decisive on the course rated as good but probably more favorable to front-runners and close-up stalkers.

“Last time, I was kind of easy on her early and she ran kind of even,” Castanon said. “Today I thought, I’ve got to take her where she wants to be and get her to relax on the lead. I had to get her feet on the ground and let her go from the beginning.”

Kool Kate launched a bold move on the turn for home, but Tearless sped away at Castanon’s urging and was still moving best of all at the finish.

“I didn’t feel much pressure from (Kool Kate). When my filly kicked in at the quarter-mile pole, I let her open up, and she stayed at the same pace the rest of the way,” Castanon said.

Castanon, who rode his first winner as a teenager in 1989 at Agua Caliente in Tijuana, finished seventh in the standings at Indiana Grand last season with 56 victories. He was seventh last year at Tampa Bay Downs with 36 victories.

“I’m excited (to get to 2,500),” said the Mexico City product, who has 16 career graded-stakes victories. “Every jockey wants to keep winning, and as long as I stay healthy my goal is to hit 3,000.”

Around the oval. Leading jockey Samy Camacho rode back-to-back winners today. He captured the seventh race on the turf on first-time starter Sorrentina Lemon, a 3-year-old filly who seemed to sprout wings through the stretch en route to victory for breeder-owner Bill Justice and trainer Christophe Clement.

Camacho next won the eighth race on 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding Tiger Blood, who improved to 3-for-3 at the current meeting. Tiger Blood, who is 8-for-10 at Tampa Bay Downs with one second, is owned and trained by Juan Arriagada.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:45 p.m. The fifth race is the $26,500 Endeavour Prep, a mile-and-a-sixteenth turf contest for fillies and mares with designs on competing in the Grade III, $175,000 Lambholm South Endeavour Stakes on the turf on Feb. 9.

The 2-1 morning-line Endeavour Prep favorite is 5-year-old mare Viva Vegas, trained by Ignacio Correas, IV and to be ridden by Castanon. Correas won last year’s Lambholm South Endeavour with Dona Bruja.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.