Post-race interview w/ Travers winner Keen Ice's jockey Javier Castellano
Post-race interview with Travers winning jockey Javier Castellano
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we're pleased now to be joined by Travers winning jockey Javier Castellano. It was his fifth Travers victory. Congratulations, Javier. Thanks for being here.
If you would, just take us through the running of the race and tell us about your trip.
JAVIER CASTELLANO: Well, very fortunate and very lucky to win my fifth Travers in my career. It's blessed, and tenfold because not that many riders have that way.
You've got to be lucky. You've got to be in the right place at the right time, a lot of support. A lot of trainers, owners, they give me the support through all the races in my career.
About the Travers, unfortunately, that's the whole race. You've got to put a lot into it. You've got to go for it. Anything can happen in the races. That's what makes it exciting, this game.
American Pharaoh is a great horse. Nothing gets taken away anything. Just the way it developed, the race, it set up good, perfect for my horse. He came from behind, and unfortunately for American Pharaoh, he was peeled away in the race, and somebody had to go for it.
The way they handicapped the race, I had to move forward a little bit. My horse, I seen the way he run the Haskell is come from behind horse, but I don't want to be too far back because I don't see much pace in the race. And the way it developed, I mean, you need to be close. That's exactly what I did. I moved forward into position and put in a good spot in the race and go from there.
THE MODERATOR: Tell us about when you moved to the lead, American Pharaoh got some pressure from Frosted early on. When you hit the lead, tell us at what point that happened and what that felt like.
JAVIER CASTELLANO: Well, turning for home, I see in the 3/8 pole -- how to ride my horse, with that kind of horse you have to go with the rhythm. When I see those two horses in the lead in head to head, American Pharaoh, I say, well, that's a good sign because somebody has to go for it.
When I seen the 1/4 pole, I begin getting closer to him, and I don't see he took off. I see those two horses start backing up really quick. That's where I thought I got it because I what I think with my horse in the top of the stretch is can I finish, can I close?
When I see him getting closer, getting closer, of course I'm getting more excited. I say, well, this is it. I'm earning my fifth win in the Travers in my career. Here I am.
THE MODERATOR: It's your first time to ride him in the afternoons, but you'd been on him in the morning?
JAVIER CASTELLANO: Yes, I did. I worked all last week. The way he works, it was amazing. Very strong galloping, steady, and good solid work. As soon as he passed the wire, he's galloping now very steady and strong. Just the kind of horse you're looking for in a 1-1/4 mile race because they never stop. They never get tired. They always continue same rhythm, same pace. That's what you're looking for.
Q. Javier, Dale has said that, no matter who he's racing, this horse was always going to win the last quarter mile. He's always said that about this horse. He's also said the horse can be a bit of a head case. Do you still feel like he's getting it together now and not being a head case anymore? What's he showing you in the mornings or in this ride here that he's finally getting everything together?
JAVIER CASTELLANO: Absolutely, the way he work in the morning, he showed me the same way he did in the afternoon. He's that kind of horse that you need to be -- I mean, he put me full in position early in the race. I didn't have to chase a little bit. I thought it was kind of like you have to ask a little bit and go with the rhythm in the first quarter mile.
No, he's the kind of horse that he put me in a good spot in the race.
Q. Have you seen him before where he did kind of set the pace in other races that you watched on video?
JAVIER CASTELLANO: Yes, I did. I watched the Haskell race. He's the kind of horse you have to ride a little bit. Even in the Belmont stakes, I watch, and he was right next to me all the way in the race. I rode Madefromlucky, and we all stayed together all the way in the race to the half mile pole. It's that kind of horse you have to ask a little bit, but he puts you in a good spot also.
Q. What is it about the Travers that you've been able to be so successful?
JAVIER CASTELLANO: Lucky. I'm very fortunate winning a lot of good races. Good horse, a lot of good horses. Last year V.E. Day set up perfect. When Tonalist move at the half mile, Wicked Strong, those two horses put a good fresh pace, and my horse closed it right on the wire. Very lucky. Very fortunate.
Q. Javier, you've had some big wins in your career. Where does this rank up in terms of atmosphere? And under the situation you knock off one of the best race horses in the world.
JAVIER CASTELLANO: Absolutely. After American Pharaoh show up in town, I have a lot of confidence in my horse, the way he work. About that time, American Pharaoh -- I didn't know if American Pharaoh is coming or not coming. When I heard the news, I'm kind of disappointed. Geez, now American Pharaoh is coming. How can I beat that horse?
You know, when you're confident in yourself and you work with that and you be positive and work the horse, you get good communication with the trainer and the owner, and we put in a lot of effort to be successful.
Remember one thing about 3-year-old races, especially in this campaign in the summer, the Travers, I believe that's the best race in the country with the 3-year-olds. But a lot of 3-year-olds early in his career start developing himself. People say, oh, he didn't show up early in his career, in the Kentucky Derby or even the Preakness and the Belmont. But later on he start waking up, and that's what I think is the key is the Travers for late developing horses.
Q. How much does the track play a factor? You can say you're lucky all you want. You say you're lucky winning a lot of jockey titles. You know the track. You've been coming here for years. Zayat said it wasn't the track, but how much does knowing the track help you win?
JAVIER CASTELLANO: Absolutely. It's a big plus. You need to know the track, but you need the horse for it too. I think -- I'm not blaming this situation because Victor has been riding the horse so good. I don't know, at some point, that's horse racing. You never know. You can get beat at any time.
Q. It helps you to know when to push the button too?
JAVIER CASTELLANO: Of course. You track the track, and you see the poles when you have to move early or save some ground. Believe it or not, this track, you have to save some ground every inch in the corner because it's a tight corner and a long stretch. That helps a little bit. You need to adjust a little bit.
With Victor in that case, I don't blame him at all. That horse was in a good position. He put him in a good spot in the race, and unfortunately, he didn't show up.
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Keen Ice and Javier Castellano photo courtesy NYRA/Adam Coglianese/Chelsea Durand