03/11/2014 1:20PM

Dick Jerardi: Jockey Abel Castellano back at home in Maryland

Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Abel Castellano won riding titles at the Pimlico spring meet and the Laurel Park fall meet in 2012.

Something was missing over the last six months on the Maryland circuit. Actually, someone was missing.

Abel Castellano, who won almost 700 races riding at Laurel Park and Pimlico since 2003, tried the New York circuit. He just returned to Maryland.

“Maryland will always be home to me,” Castellano said. “Most of my big career moments have been here. People here treat me good. Things got off to a slow start in New York but were picking up. However, the big-name riders are coming back for the spring, and it was becoming harder and harder to leave my family, who stayed here. The kids are in school. I am glad to be back and am hopeful to get opportunities to ride for the same trainers I have ridden for all these years.”

Castellano won riding titles at the Pimlico spring meet and Laurel Park fall meet in 2012. He won five races at Laurel on Oct. 18, 2004, and five more April 5, 2008. He won 11 stakes in 2004 and got his 1,000th career win at Laurel on Dec. 19, 2007.

Castellano has won 1,743 races from 11,037 career mounts. Now, he is back where he has won most of them. And he is available.

Friends’ stable getting started

Tom McDonnell and Dave Ciavardone used to play basketball against each other in the Philadelphia Catholic League, traditionally the strongest high-school league in Pennsylvania. Two months ago, they decided to take their shared interest in horses and start McChev Stables.

They started their first horse March 1 at Parx. They brought 75 family members and friends ages 5 to 75 to the track to see Passionforall run in a $35,000 first-level allowance for Pennsylvania-breds. The horse, favored at 3-5, finished third and earned $3,850 – not perfect but a decent start for a horse they claimed for $10,000 on Jan. 25.

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McDonnell played at St. Joseph’s Prep, which is downtown, and Ciavardone played at Archbishop Ryan, just a few furlongs from Parx. They graduated in 1990.

They owned three horses until March 2, when Water Tower, whom they had claimed for $10,000 on Jan. 26, was claimed for $16,000. Water Tower finished second in the race, so they got the claiming price and the $5,000 in purse money. The third horse in the stable is Sheedbdawon, whom the partners claimed for $7,500 on Feb. 23. Scott Lake is their trainer.

Kreiser on a roll at Penn

Trainer Tim Kreiser had a career year in 2013 with 116 winners for $2.8 million in earnings. It looks like he was just getting started.

Through Monday, he was 24-16-10 from 72 starters overall and 19-10-7 from 51 starters at Penn National, a cool 37 percent. In March, he has had 15 starters at Penn, with five wins, three seconds, and three thirds.

Kreiser won with 28 percent of his starters at Penn National last year, which is tremendous. This year has started better than tremendous, as the trainer is loaded again with claimers, allowance horses, and a few who will win stakes at Penn National and other Mid-Atlantic tracks.

Hot filly at Charles Town

Trainer Jerry Robb has been winning races since 1975 and is closing in on 12,000 career starters and 1,800 winners. His best horse was the amazing Little Bold John, who raced 105 times, winning 38 races, including 25 stakes and almost $2 million.

The 3-year-old filly Joanne Elizabeth has a long way to go to catch Little Bold John, but she is on a roll at Charles Town.

She won her maiden there Dec. 27 at 4  1/2 furlongs, crushing the field by seven lengths. She then showed speed before tiring in the mud at Laurel Park but subsequently won twice more at Charles Town on Feb. 20 and March 8. The first of those 2014 wins was at 6 1/2 furlongs, and the other was at seven furlongs, so she has won at three different distances.

The filly is not running particularly fast, with all three winning Beyer Speed Figures in the mid- to high 50s. But she is winning, something her trainer has been doing for almost 40 years.