Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, out since mid-November following leg surgery, said he expects to resume riding the second week of February at Gulfstream Park.
Castellano, 43, won a record five consecutive Championship Meet riding titles at Gulfstream from 2011-12 through 2015-16. He had arthroscopic surgery to clean up some debris in his right leg, near the hip, Nov. 16 in New York, where he remains in recovery.
“I’m doing physical therapy right now and I feel really good. It’s a process,” Castellano said. “I want to come back 100 percent. I could have come back two or three weeks earlier, but there’s no point to rush. When I made the decision to do this I wanted to do it 100 percent right.
“I plan to come back in February. In the beginning of February I’m planning to start getting on some horses, and we’re pointing for the second week to start riding at Gulfstream,” he added. “I’m looking forward to it.”
The timing of Castellano’s return would have him available for two of Gulfstream’s biggest races, both for 3-year-olds with Triple Crown aspirations – the $300,000 Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth (G2) Feb. 27 and the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) March 27.
Castellano won the 2014 Florida Derby with Constitution and the 2017 Fountain of Youth with Gunnevera.
“We want to go to the Fountain of Youth,” he said. “The main goal is to go to the Fountain of Youth and ride the good races and the Florida Derby, that’s the second goal. Hopefully we can pick something up and move forward.”
Castellano ended 2020 with 108 wins and more than $12.4 million in purse earnings from 640 mounts, boosting his career totals to 5,328 wins and a bankroll of nearly $355 million. He said the decision to have his surgery in late fall came with the future in mind.
“We’re looking at the long term and just be patient, not rush back and ride too quick. Thank God, knock on wood I’ve never had any surgeries in the past,” Castellano said. “I made the decision because I wanted to take care of my body and be able to ride 10 more years. I feel great. This surgery is to prevent something for the future.
“I could have kept riding four, five, six years and it wouldn’t have bothered me, but the doctors were saying that at the end of my career I’d have to have big surgery like a hip replacement or something like that. I didn’t want to end my career like that,” he added. “This was able to take care of little issues and be able to move forward. I will be able to ride longer and when my career is over, I’ll have no pain. I can play golf, I can walk, everything.”
Castellano had 23 wins and ranked eighth with $1.458 million in purse earnings during the 2019-2020 Championship Meet. The four-time Eclipse Award winner said he and his medical team have been pleased with his recovery.
“The first week [in Florida] I’m going to go see the doctor and make sure that they give me the OK to come back to ride, but the physical therapist and the doctor have been communicating all the time,” he said. “Every week I’ve been reaching my goals quicker and that’s good news. I recovered really quick, faster than an average person because a jockey’s life is all about doing exercises and eating well and taking care of your body. I think that helped me progress quicker.”
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