06/07/2005 11:00PM

Castro's record feat still creating buzz

Jim Lisa
Jockey Eddie Castro celebrates his record nine-win afternoon.

MIAMI - The Belmont Stakes commands most of the racing world's attention this week, but not necessarily here at Calder, where jockey Eddie Castro's feat of winning 14 races in a two-day span, including a record nine on last Saturday's card, is still the talk of the town.

Castro's nine winners set a North American record for most victories by a jockey on a single program. The late Chris Antley won nine races on Oct. 31, 1987, but did so at two different racetracks, Aqueduct in the afternoon and The Meadowlands at night.

Castro modestly shrugged off his achievement, saying it took as much luck as it did skill to win the five races on Friday let alone nine more the following day. But horsemen here were not hesitant to give credit where credit was due.

"In all the years I've been around the racetrack, I've never seen anything like what Eddie did last Saturday, and I probably never will again," said trainer Steve Dwoskin, who gave Castro a leg up on three of the 14 winners, including Ben's Advantage for the record-breaking ninth win in Saturday's finale. "That was a tremendous feat. The kid is just phenomenal. He puts horses right where they are supposed to be, then is very patient before making his move. He's as good as any of the top riders we've had here over the years, and we've had our share. In fact, he reminds me a lot of Eibar Coa when he was riding around here. I just hope Eddie sticks around for a while, although he'll probably wind up leaving like all the rest."

Dwoskin said he felt the pressure associated with Castro's record -breaking day.

"I think I had more pressure on me in that last race Saturday than I ever had in my life," he said. "I didn't care that much about winning a cheap maiden race for myself. But I would have felt terrible if my horse didn't run well and had cost him the record."

Castro's big weekend left him with a comfortable advantage over arch-rival M.R. Cruz in the quest for his fourth straight local riding championship. Castro won both the 2004 Calder and 2003-2004 Tropical at Calder titles; Cruz finished second on both occasions.

Hal's Image returns

Hal's Image will make his first start since finishing 11th in the Preakness Stakes in Friday's $28,000 allowance feature, carded for 1 1/8 miles on the turf. If the race goes on the grass, it will mark Hal's Image's first start on turf. It would also be his first start against older horses.

"I'd rather the race comes off the grass, but I'll probably run him either way," said trainer Barry Rose. "He's got some pedigree for the turf, so I think he'll handle it okay, and I need to get a race into him to set him up for his next start."

Rose said either the Iowa Derby at Prairie Meadows on July 1 or the Grade 2 Ohio Derby at Thistledown the next day would be Hal's Image's next major objective.

If Friday's feature race - to be run under second-level allowance conditions - stays on the turf, Montford Ridge and Dancing Master likely will vie for favoritism.

Perspicacious vs. Sir Ray, III

Like the Belmont, which features a rubber match between Afleet Alex and Giacomo, Saturday's $50,000 New York New York Stakes features a rubber match between local rivals Perspicacious and Sir Ray. The 1 1/2-mile New York New York is the third and final leg of Calder's Senior Triple for older horses. Perspicacious won the first leg, the My Old Kentucky Home, while Sir Ray turned the tables in the second leg, the Maryland My Maryland - winning despite bolting around the first turn and down the backstretch.

A field of seven is entered in the New York New York. The others are: The Man, Sir Stack, Smooth Lover, Gimme No Lip, and Stars of Silver.

Catalano family on a roll

The husband-and-wife team of trainers Mike Catalano and Abigail Fuller-Catalano continues to be red hot. Royal Lace's second straight victory for Fuller-Catalano in Tuesday's seventh race gave her a record of 6-4-0 from just 11 starters during the meet, while Mike has won with 2 of the 3 horses he has run in his name this meet. The pair have a combined 57 percent win percentage and an in-the-money mark of 86 percent for the meet.

"We had a lot of horses run second and third at Gulfstream, and now they are in the right spots to win," said Mike Catalano. "We've also had our share of good luck, too. Most of the horses will run in my name for the remainder of the meet with Abby only training those we have here for her father."

Abigail Fuller is the daughter of owner-breeder Peter Fuller, who is best known for campaigning Dancer's Image and Mom's Command.