US RACING: Javier Castellano tests positive for COVID-19

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Javier Castellano

In the first diagnosis made public for a big-name American jockey, Hall of Famer Javier Castellano has tested positive for COVID-19, his agent announced Thursday.

John Panagot said in a post to his Twitter account Castellano was tested on Tuesday after Gulfstream Park mandated he take a physical. The results returned Thursday morning.

“Javier is asymptomatic and feels fine and healthy,” Panagot said. “He jogged three miles Wednesday and looked forward to the weekend.”

Castellano was scheduled to ride Todd Pletcher-trained Candy Tycoon in the Florida Derby (G1) and Spice is Nice in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2), plus had the mount on returning 4-year-olds Vekoma in the Sir Shackleton and Newspaperofrecord in the Sand Springs Stakes among other assignments this week.

Instead of riding, Panagot said Castellano will self isolate until he’s medically cleared.

Castellano last rode in the afternoon on March 15, according to Equibase, his longest gap between mounts so far this year. Gulfstream required jockeys intending to ride on Saturday’s card be in town by Sunday night.

Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., the two-time reigning Eclipse Award winner, has taken off during the health crisis for precautionary reasons, while Rajiv Maragh, also based at Gulfstream, has been in and out of action, vocal about safety protocols at the track. Last Friday, Gulfstream took a day off from racing before returning Saturday with new restrictions including access to the jockeys’ room.

It’s unclear whether Castellano’s positive test puts Gulfstream’s races in doubt moving forward. The track was already under local political pressure to close before Florida Derby day, with Hallandale Beach’s vice mayor, Sabrina Javellana, saying Gulfstream is “blatantly violating the Broward County order” by conducting non-essential business.

Other major tracks still operating include Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields in California, as well as Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. Oaklawn continued on after hosting NFL head coach Sean Payton earlier this month; Payton, who presented the trophy after a stakes race, tested positive for COVID-19 days later.