Jockey Javier Castellano announced on Thursday that he tested positive for COVID-19, shelving him for at least the next two weeks.
Castellano revealed the news on Twitter, saying he was asked by officials at Gulfstream Park in Florida to take a test for the coronavirus on Tuesday after he spent last week in New York with his family.
He learned the results on Wednesday night after he had jogged three miles earlier in the day, his agent Joh Panagot said on the social media outlet. The track required the test after Castellano arrived to South Florida on a plane.
The 42-year-old Venezuelan native said he had been asymptomatic.
I have had no known contact with anyone that has tested positive,” he said. “I appreciate the support from everyone, including Gulfstream Park. Stay safe everyone and we will all get through this, God willing.”
According to Equibase, Castellano last raced on March 15 at Gulfstream. The day before that, he raced at Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Arkansas. That was the same day New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton visited the track, which was closed to the public because of COVID-19. Last Thursday, Payton revealed he tested positive for the virus.
Racing continued Thursday at Gulfstream, where Castellano was scheduled to ride in four races. He had six mounts scheduled for Friday and a dozen on Saturday, including five in graded stakes. Castellano was to ride Candy Tycoon for trainer Todd Pletcher in the Grade I Florida Derby.
Should Racing Continue?
Castellano testing positive for the coronavirus comes as some question whether racing should continue, as states and municipalities issue orders closing non-essential businesses and urging residents to stay home.
The vice mayor of Hallandale Beach, Fla., where Gulfstream is located, said earlier this week that the park should stop racing, as Broward County officials have issued such an order in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.
Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky became the most recent to close, announcing so on Wednesday after Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear ordered all “non-life-sustaining” businesses to close by Thursday night.
Gulfstream did cancel its card last Friday to implement new procedures to protect the horsemen, workers, and jockeys on the grounds. That included disinfecting the starting gate between races, requiring jockeys to wear gloves at all times, spacing their lockers and workstations a minimum of six feet apart, and prohibiting physical contact among jockeys and grounds crew.
Last week, the New York Racing Association closed Aqueduct in Queens after a backstretch worker contracted the virus.
Besides Gulfstream, eight other US tracks continue to hold live racing, even though fans and others are not allowed at the track. That includes Santa Anita Park, which like Gulfstream is owned by The Stronach Group. Oaklawn also is planning to race this weekend.
The argument for continuing to race at this time is two-fold. First, the revenues generated from racing sustain the operations that allow horsemen to continue to care for the horses. Second, racing proponents claim that racehorses, highly conditioned athletes, need exercise to maintain their health.
Castellano is one of racing’s most successful jockeys. He’s ridden more than 28,600 horses and won 5,244 races. That places him 26th in all-time wins and 11th among active riders. He’s won a total of more than $334 million in purses for his owners and trainers throughout his career.
In 169 starts this year, he’s won 24 times and placed in the money 50.3 percent of the time. His purse earnings for 2020 is $1.9 million.
A four-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s top jockey, Castellano was enshrined in the Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2017.
While Castellano said he will be in quarantine for the next two weeks, his agent added that he will need to be medically cleared before he can resume racing.