05/18/2005 12:00AM

Castro starts fast toward his fourth consecutive jockey title

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Skip Smith
Eddie Castro on Nightmare Affair after winning the Ponche Handicap.

MIAMI - The 2005 Calder meet is only 17 days old but leading jockey Eddie Castro Jr. has already racked up eight stakes victories, including the $75,000 Ponche Handicap aboard Nightmare Affair on April 30.

Castro, 20, who won the Eclipse Award as the nation's leading apprentice in 2003, has won the last three riding titles here, beginning with the 2003-2004 Tropical-at-Calder meet. He dominated the standings during both meets in 2004, winning the spring-summer championship by a 154-120 margin over Manny Cruz and the Tropical meet by an 83-60 spread over Cruz.

Through Tuesday, Castro led the rider standings 28-21 over Cruz. Castro rode 51 winners and finished eighth in the Gulfstream Park standings this past winter while competing in arguably the premier jockey colony in the country. He has won more than 600 races since coming to the United States from his native Panama in the spring of 2003.

Besides Nightmare Affair, Castro's stakes winners at the meet are Flying Circle in the Snurb, Gower in the Naked Greed, Wise Briana in the GTOBA Oaks, Super Frolic in the Sumter, Perspicacious in the My Old Kentucky Home, Pampered Princess in the Emergency Nurse, and Covincing in last Sunday's Cool Air.

Castro will be out of town Saturday, riding Flying Circle for trainer David Fawkes in the $100,000 Open Mind Stakes at Churchill Downs.

In Castro's absence, Eduardo Nunez picks up the mount on Perspicacious, who will try to duplicate his victory in the 1 1/4-mile My Old Kentucky Home Stakes when he goes off as one of the top choices in the $50,000 Maryland My Maryland Stakes.

The Maryland My Maryland is the second leg in Calder's unique Senior Triple, a three-race series that mirrors the three races in the Triple Crown, but is open to older horses as well as to 3-year-olds. Perspicacious chased and ran down Sir Ray for a neck victory in the My Old Kentucky Home. Sir Ray is also among the 10 entered for 1 3/16-mile Maryland My Maryland.

Constancy drops in feature

Constancy returns to the main track and takes a significant drop in class in the one-mile $28,000 allowance feature on Friday. Constancy faced tougher competition on the turf in her two starts in south Florida earlier this year.

Constancy finished 10th of 12 after encountering early trouble as a 100-1 outsider in the Hollywood Wildcat Breeders' Cup Handicap here on April 30. Trained by Kathleen O'Connell, Constancy owns the highest main-track Beyer Speed Figure of the seven fillies and mares in the field, an 89 earned for her 1 3/4-length first-level allowance victory last fall at Keeneland.

Notable among Constancy's rivals on Friday are Expedition Leader, Gentille Alouette, Crazy Caro, and Runaway Kitten.

Calascibetta finds room at the top

Joe Calascibetta, whose lone trainer title here came at the 1999-2000 Tropical-at-Calder meet when he finished in a tie with Bill White and Ralph Ziadie, is off to a hot start at the current meet.

A Massachusetts native, Calascibetta saddled his sixth winner at this meet, Dig for Dinner, in Tuesday's finale. The victory moved him into a tie with Ron Spatz atop the trainer standings going into Friday's card.

Eleven other trainers are deadlocked for third with four wins each, including former rider Abigail Fuller-Catalano, who got her four victories with only seven starters. Fuller-Catalano was the regular rider for Mom's Command, who is among the 2005 nominees for induction into the Racing Hall of Fame.

Stallion series payments due

The final sustaining payment of $250 to remain eligible for this year's $1.2 million Florida Stallion Stakes series for 2-year-olds is due Friday. The series begins with the $75,000 Desert Vixen and Dr. Fager Stakes here on Aug. 13 and concludes with the $400,000 My Dear Girl and In Reality Stakes on Oct. 15.

Aclassysassylassy swept the filly division of the series in 2004. B. B. Best won two of the three legs of the open division, including the In Reality last year, and has since run third in both the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes and Grade 1 Florida Derby at 3.