BALTIMORE,MD 05-14-10 – Javier Castellano, who captured the 2006 Preakness with Bernardini, registered a pair of victories to edge defending champion Kent Desormeaux and win the second annual $50,000 Pimlico Jockey Challenge on Friday.
Castellano rode the winners of the third and seventh races, earning 24 points and the $14,000 top prize. Desormeaux had one win, one second and one fourth and wound up with 22 points.
A 32-year-old native of Venezuela who was the regular rider for 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, Castellano finished second to Desormeaux in last year’s Challenge by a similar two-point margin, 22-20.
“It feels so great,” Castellano said. “I had a great year last year and got beat in the last race. I’m so excited to get it done today. For me, it worked out great. All my horses, they ran pretty good. They responded pretty well today.”
In special wagering on the four-race Challenge, Castellano paid $10 for the win, and the Castellano-Desormeaux exacta was worth $45.20.
Twelve points were awarded for finishing first among Challenge participants, six for second, four for third, and three for fourth in four designated races. John Velazquez picked up points in three races and was third with 15 points. Ramon Dominguez, who leads the country with 132 wins, captured the finale and was fourth with 12 points.
Rounding out the finishers were Julien Leparoux (11 points), Jeremy Rose (7), Garrett Gomez (6) and Rosie Napravnik (3).
Castellano, who will ride Aikenite, the Todd Pletcher-trained stablemate of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver in Saturday’s 135th Preakness, trailed only once in the competition. He ran second with Skeleton Crew in the third race behind My Bullet, but because jockey Joshua Navarro was not among the Challenge participants, Castellano earned 12 points for a Challenge win.
After picking up four points in the third race, Desormeaux captured the fifth race with Alwaysacontest to take a 16-12 lead over Castellano and Velazquez, who finished second in each of the first two races.
A victory in the seventh race aboard Squabble, 3 ¾ lengths ahead of Gomez and Thundering Rose in second, put Castellano in the lead for good. Though he finished sixth in the Challenge finale, Desormeaux needed to win and was second, 2 ¾ lengths behind Dominguez and Phosphorescent.
The Challenge brought together eight riders who have won nine Eclipse Awards, 10 Triple Crown races, 23 Breeders’ Cup races, as well as more than 23,000 races and $1 billion in purses overall. Five of the eight who competed ranked in the top 10 in the country this year in purse earnings.
The Maryland Jockey Club teamed with the Jockeys’ Guild for the event, making a $5,000 donation to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. The participants were featured on a souvenir poster that was handed out to the first 3,500 fans in attendance.