By Bill Finley
A strange four-day period in which the likely second choice in a $3-million race did not have a jockey ended Tuesday with the announcement that Javier Castellano will ride Spun to Run (Hard Spun) in the GI Pegasus Invitational at Gulfstream.
Castellano replaces Irad Ortiz, Jr., who made the peculiar decision to take off Spun to Run in order to ride the Bob Baffert-trained Mucho Gusto (Mucho Macho Man). Mucho Gusto was last seen running third in the GIII Oklahoma Derby Sept. 29 and his biggest wins have come at the Grade III level. Meanwhile, Spun to Run was second in his last start behind likely 3-year-old champion Maximum Security (New Year's Day) in the GI Cigar Mile and, before that, he won the 2019 GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile with Ortiz aboard.
Owner Bob Donaldson said he wasn't pleased to find himself without a jockey so close to such an important race, but was happy to have landed Castellano.
“Luis Saez wanted to ride him and so did Javier,” Donaldson said. “Javier kept calling. With Saez, he wasn't good about getting back to [trainer] Carlos [Guerrero]. We weren't going to wait around. Javier, he's money. I know Javier can get the job done. I am relieved. We went through a lot of stress and the anxiety waiting to get an answer. With this kind of horse, you wouldn't expect that.”
Donaldson said he wasn't upset with Ortiz.
“I can't get mad at Irad. It's a business,” he said. “Would I have liked him to be loyal to us? Yes. Baffert can offer him a lot more than we can. So I understand.”
Castellano had been listed earlier in the week as the rider for Tenfold (Curlin) in the Pegasus.
A few hours before his connections landed Castellano, Spun to Run had his final work for the Pegasus, going four furlongs in :47.51 at Palm Meadows. As he has done in prior works, Spun to Run worked without Lasix, which will not be permitted in the Pegasus.
“I like the way our horse is coming into this race,” Donaldson said. “This was a really nice breeze. The rider didn't move on him and he went in :47 and change. This horse is flourishing. You haven't seen the best of him yet.”
With Omaha Beach (War Front) the center of attention in the lead-up to the Pegasus, Spun to Run seems to have been largely forgotten. That Spun to Run defeated Omaha Beach handily in the GI Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile the only time the two met seems to be a non-issue.
“I've read all the articles and we're not getting any respect,” Donaldson said. “Let people say what they want. I enjoy being under the radar.”