07/07/2017 12:36PM

Former jockey Abel Castellano off to fast start as trainer

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Abel Castellano, shown during his riding days, got three wins as a trainer Thursday at Delaware Park.

Former rider Abel Castellano Jr.’s three-win debut as a trainer at Delaware Park on Thursday seemingly came from out of the blue, but in reality, a lot of planning went into the victories.

Castellano has 15 horses stabled at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. He ran eight of them Thursday, six at Delaware and two at Finger Lakes. He won a first-level allowance race, a $25,000 claiming race, and a $12,500 claiming race.

“It was a great day,” Castellano said. “I pointed my horses to these races for a long time.”

Castellano, 34, is the younger brother of reigning four-time champion jockey Javier Castellano. Abel rode 1,849 winners from 2000-15. He won 683 races in Maryland at Laurel Park and Pimlico and another 459 races at Delaware Park.

His career was cut short in December 2015 when he suffered a concussion.

“I tried, but I couldn’t make it back to riding, and horses are my life,” Abel Castellano said. “I’ve been trying to find something else to do.”

Castellano rode in New York at different points in his career. He had 14 wins for Todd Pletcher and eight for Chad Brown.

“When I would work horses for Todd and Chad, I would watch very closely how they did things and how their barns worked,” Castellano said. “The top guys, Todd, Chad, Graham Motion, they all point their horses to specific races, and that’s what I did with my horses for Thursday.”

Castellano said growing up in Venezuela, he wanted to be a trainer, not a rider.

“As a kid, I wanted to train, but in Venezuela, you don’t get that chance – only the rich people do,” Castellano said. “So, I came here, saw my brother winning races, and became a jockey. But even when I was riding, in my heart I wanted to be a trainer.”

Castellano said it took him a long time to recover from his concussion.

“I came to Fair Hill a lot and watched the horses train,” Castellano said. “I visited Mark Shuman’s barn, Graham Motion’s barn. Looking back, the concussion gave me a good reason to change my career.”

After running more than half his stable Thursday, it may take Castellano a while to reload. But he proved himself a winner in the saddle, and he is off to an excellent start in his new profession.