Decisive Delgado Could Not Wait for Castellano

Javier Castellano aboard Arcangelo working at Saratoga Aug. 6 | Sarah Andrew


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — It turned out that a non-decision is precisely what settled who would ride GI Kentucky Derby winner Mage (Good Magic) and GI Belmont S. winner Arcangelo (Arrogate) in the GI Travers.

Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano rode both horses to their victories in the Triple Crown series and had his choice of which one to ride in the Travers on Aug. 26 at Saratoga Race Course. He holds the Travers record of six wins.

Mage's trainer, Gustavo Delgado, asked Castellano on Monday to give him an answer by late Tuesday afternoon. Castellano asked for more time and when he did not contact Delgado by the deadline, Delgado announced that Luis Saez would ride the chestnut colt.

“I can't wait for him. That's no problem,” Delgado said. “He said he can't make a decision right now. I understand.”

Delgado said the owners of the colt were asking him who would ride and since he expects the $1.25- million Travers to have a large field, perhaps as many as a dozen runners, he felt it was important to act.

“The decision was not Castellano's. It was my decision,” he said. “My decision was not to wait. Not to wait until next week. Not wait until entries.”

Saez's move to Mage leaves Tapit Trice (Tapit) without a jockey for the moment. Trainer Todd Pletcher said he would talk with the colt's connections about a replacement.

Delgado and Castellano are both from Venezuela and are longtime friends. Castellano said he understands why Delgado wanted the matter settled.

“It's a hard decision. Nobody can be mad,” he said. “We shouldn't be mad. Nobody. This is the business.”

Castellano had hoped he would have more time to discuss his options with his agent and Arcangelo's trainer Jena Antonucci, but Delgado was firm. After spending Tuesday on a boat with his family, Castellano returned home to learn that Delgado had booked Saez.

“I don't blame them because they gave me the right to choose,” Castellano said. “Then they gave me the deadline and I couldn't answer that question right away. Then they took away the decision. It was good. It worked out for everybody.”

Delgado said he settled on Saez because he had ridden the colt to a second-place finish in the GI Florida Derby. Forte (Curlin) made a strong run in the stretch to catch and pass Mage.

“At that moment, he was not used to the horse,” Delgado said. “I think he was surprised with the horse because he never rode (Mage). When I talked with him after the ride, he said, 'Gustavo, this is a good horse. You can win the Derby, but right now I have a commitment to Tapit Trice.'”

Delgado turned to Castellano and he earned his first Derby victory. He also rode Mage to a third in the GI Preakness and a second in the GI Haskell.

Saez's agent Kiaran McLaughlin said they made it clear that they wanted another opportunity on Mage.

“We were always in touch with them,” he said. “We knew there was going to be a possible issue so we told them we would be happy to ride him if they needed a rider.

It wasn't an easy decision because Tapit Trice has been very good to us and Todd has been very good to us, but we just thought we would like to be on Mage in the Travers.”

McLaughlin said he got the call from the Mage camp Tuesday afternoon.

“I just waited for them,” he said. “I told Todd as soon as they told me and he was good with it. He's very, very good to deal with. He's a very close friend and I hate to ever take off a Todd Pletcher, for a claiming race or a Grade I. It's not easy.”

Antonucci said early in the meet that she would be patient and let Castellano pick who he would ride.

“You just have to give things time to breathe sometimes and not force topics and everything always works out the way it's supposed to,” she said. “I'm a big believer that there are stuff way bigger and stronger than us making things happen and watching out.

One of us was going to have Javier and one of us was going to have Luis Saez.”

Castellano is 3-for-3 aboard Arcangelo. Antonucci said she turned to him when Jose Ortiz gave up the mount after two starts. Castellano was up for the maiden victory on Mar. 18, and wins in the GIII Peter Pan on May 13 and the Belmont on June 10.

Antonucci said Castellano's patient approach suits Arcangelo's running style.

“For me, it just works,” she said. “He believes in the horse. The horse knows that. They keep forming more and more of a relationship. It just works.”

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