By NAN News Editor
News Americas, LOUISVILLE, KY, Sat. May 6, 2023: Venezuela stole the spotlight at the Kentucky Derby Saturday as trainer Gustavo Delgado, Sr. and jockey Javier Castellano, riding 16-1 shot Mage, stunned the racing world to take the win and the Derby crown.
Delgado and Castellano, both from Venezuela, each claimed a first Kentucky Derby win as Castellano led Mage surging around the final turn and out-dueling Two Phil’s down the stretch.
The 45-year-old Castellano thanked Jesus after the race at Churchill Downs. “I never give up,” Castellano said. “I always try hard to do the right thing. It took me a little while to get there. I finally got it.”
Mage, who was bought for $290,000, won the 149th running of the Kentucky Derby — and the $1.86 million first prize, more than 60% of the $3 million purse. The horse is owned by OGMA investments, Ramiro Restrepo, Sterling Racing and CMNWLTH.
Castellano began his riding career in 1996 at Santa Rita and La Rinconada racecourses in Venezuela. In June 1997 he moved to the United States where he rode at racetracks in southern Florida until 2001 when he moved to race on the New York State racing circuit. He had his first major win in 2004, on Frank Stronach’s colt Ghostzapper and won several major races including the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic, earning 2004 Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year and other honors. In 2006, Castellano rode Bernardini for Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Darley Racing, winning the Preakness Stakes, the Travers Stakes, and the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
Castellano received the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 each time based on having the highest purse winnings of any jockey in North America. In 2013, he finished the year with purse earnings of over $26.2 million, surpassing the single-season record previously held by Ramon Dominguez in 2012.
He passed 4,000 North American wins in February 2015, and by the end of the year had broken his own single-season winnings and earnings record.
Racing runs in Castellano’s family. His father, who died in 2000, his uncle and a brother all have been jockeys. He considers his father to be the biggest influence on his career.
Trainer Delgado Sr.
Delgado Sr. who lives in Florida, was filled with uncontrollable joy. He waltzed all the way to the winner’s circle to celebrate. His son and assistant trainer Gustavo Delgado Jr., who himself was breathing like a sprinter after his burst from the stands to the track, was left to sum up exactly what this win meant for his dad.
Delgado Jr. remembered as a kid when his father said during the height of his success in Venezuela that “one day we should go to the States and try to win one of those races.”
Delgado, Sr. is a multiple classic-winning trainer in his native country. Mage gave Delgado his third Grade 1 winner in the U.S. following Bodexpress and Paola Queen and he also has trained graded stakes winners Speed Franco, Grand Tito, and Grand Bili.
Delgado Jr. said “everything went according to plan” with the race Saturday, even the note he wrote to himself last year that they would win the 149th Kentucky Derby.
“I started to believe in myself that we were as capable as anybody to win big things,” Delgado Jr. said. “Now we’re thinking big, acting big and expecting big things to happen.”
The Venezuelan native, who is based in Florida, waltzed all the way to the winner’s circle to celebrate. His son and assistant trainer Gustavo Delgado Jr., who himself was breathing like a sprinter after his burst from the stands to the track, was left to sum up exactly what this win meant for his dad. Delgado Sr., has won the equivalent of the triple crown in Venezuela.
Now Castellano and Mage are poised to challenge for the Triple Crown, with the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore on May 20th to be followed by the Belmont Stakes in New York in June.
The win came after seven horses died before the race, racing questions about the future of horse racing.