Further proof this probably is the highest-quality jockey colony in Tampa Bay Downs history arrived today in the form of two victories by Jesus L. Castanon.
The 43-year-old Mexico City native, who won back-to-back titles here in 2003-2004 and 2004-2005, vaulted to national prominence in 2011 when he rode Shackleford to a Preakness victory for trainer Dale Romans.
Castanon was sidelined nine months after breaking his tailbone and suffering a concussion in a spill at Ellis Park in Kentucky in August of 2015. He seeks to regain some of the magic he discovered here more than a decade ago, but acknowledged the Oldsmar waters are deeper than ever.
“This jockeys’ room is pretty tough. You can look around and see a lot of good, young riders,” said Castanon, who also won the Grade I Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Shackleford in 2012. “They are looking to take the next steps in their careers, and I know they’ll do it.
“There are a lot of good trainers on the backside here and a bunch of good horses, also, so this is a good place to be for me. And I’m enjoying the weather,” he added, about 90 minutes after the sun finally broke through following a dank morning.
When Castanon first came to Tampa Bay Downs for the 2002-2003 meeting, he received a major boost from top trainer Tom Proctor. He is working for Proctor again and starting to attract business from other good outfits.
“I’m happy that Tom Proctor is able to help me again and that I’m able to ride for some other good trainers,” said Castanon, who is married to retired jockey and 1999 Eclipse Award Outstanding Apprentice finalist Rolanda Simpson and has four children and a granddaughter. “I came here because I love this place and I want to win races and not just go somewhere to make a living. The grass course here is probably one of the best in the country, and the dirt track is always in good shape and kind to the horses.”
Castanon rode one horse for Proctor today, finishing fourth on 2-year-old Florida-bred filly and first-time starter Art Institute in the eighth race on the turf. His victories came in the first race on 3-year-old gelding Supermans Cape for owners V-Leaf Stables and Richard Ravin and trainer Larry Rivelli, and in the sixth on the turf on 3-year-old filly Believe Indeed for owner Parting Glass Stable and trainer Derek Ryan.
Conditioner Ryan also sent out the second-place finisher in that race, Judy’s Chance, and he won the second race with 3-year-old filly Aubrees the First. She is owned by Metro Thoroughbreds and was ridden by Mike Allen.
Around the oval. A half-sister to 2012 Grade I Arkansas Derby winner and Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister won today’s eighth race on the turf. The 2-year-old filly Sugar and Te, an Ireland-bred runner sired by Galileo, broke her maiden for owner St. Elias Stable and Hall of Fame trainer William Mott. Jockey Aurelien Lemaitre, a native of France, notched his first victory in the United States.
Leading trainer Gerald Bennett won the seventh race with 5-year-old mare Indian Chaser, giving him seven victories over the last three racing days. Indian Chaser is owned by South Fork Creek Stables and was ridden by Ronnie Allen, Jr.
Bennett will be honored Saturday as the Tampa Bay Brewing Company Trainer of the Month.
Tampa Bay Downs presents a 10-race card Saturday beginning at 12:25 p.m. The co-features are the fourth and sixth races, both at a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the turf course.
The morning-line 2-1 favorite for the fourth race, a conditional allowance/$32,000 optional claiming event for horses 3-years-old-and-upward, is the Larry Rivelli-trained 5-year-old gelding Lewis Vale.
Conscription is a 3-1 morning-line favorite for the sixth, an allowance for fillies and mares 3-and-upward. She is trained by H. Graham Motion and will be ridden by Angel Cruz.
Tampa Bay Downs is racing on a Wednesday-Friday-Saturday schedule through December, with the exception of Christmas Eve, Dec. 24. Sundays will be added to the mix on Jan. 1. The track is open every day except Christmas, Dec. 25, for simulcast wagering, no-limits poker action in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.
Jockeys to visit hospital Monday. For the third year, a group of jockeys from Tampa Bay Downs will visit children at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. The visit will take place Monday beginning at 1 p.m.
Media members desiring to publicize this event may contact Margo Flynn, the track’s Vice President of Marketing and Publicity, or her assistant, Mike Henry, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is a leader in pediatric treatment, education, research and advocacy and provides expert care for infants, children and teens, many with potentially life-limiting illnesses.