Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday and will be in self-quarantine for the next two weeks, while so far asymptomatic for the disease.
He was scheduled to ride at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida, this week, including the blockbuster Florida Derby card that is scheduled for Saturday.
One of the most successful and popular riders in North America, Castellano broke the news in a two-part tweet Thursday afternoon. He hasn’t ridden a race anywhere since March 15, at Gulfstream, after which he flew home to his family in New York.
He returned to Florida on Sunday and was told by Gulfstream Park that he needed to take a physical before being allowed on the grounds, under updated safety protocols the track implemented this week that include stricter rules governing the jockeys’ room. He was tested on for COVID-19 on Tuesday and came up positive Wednesday night.
His tweets read:
“After being in New York with my family last week, I was asked by Gulfstream to come early to Florida to get tested for the virus. I was asymptomatic all along. Unfortunately the test came back last night as positive. I am otherwise healthy but will follow the doctors…
“orders to quarantine for the next 2 weeks. I have had no known contact with anyone that has tested positive. I appreciate the support from everyone including Gulfstream Park. Stay safe everyone and we will all get through this God willing,” punctuated by a folded hands praying emoji.
Castellano’s agent, John Panagot, tweeted a message on Thursday that read:
“It was confirmed this morning that Javier Castellano tested positive for COVID-19.
“Because of Gulfstream Park’s strict COVID-19 protocol, Javier was required to take a physical since he had recently flown. Following his physical, he took the COVID-19 test on Tuesday.
“Javier is asymptomatic and feels fine and healthy. He jogged 3 miles Wednesday and had looked forward to riding this weekend at Gulfstream.
“He will self-isolate until he is medically cleared.”
Gulfstream Park has been getting pressure from local authorities to stop racing, in light of a Broward County directive that went into effect on Monday calling for non-essential businesses to close. The track, owned by The Stronach Group, suspended racing last Friday to tighten up its procedures and began racing again on Wednesday.
The track released a statement in the wake of the Castellano news:
“Our thoughts go out to Javier Castellano today and we are so glad to hear that he is asymptomatic,” a Gulfstream Park statement. “At Gulfstream Park, we have been operating in full compliance with all executive orders issued by the state of Florida and have, in fact, initiated stringent measures for the protection of all of our essential personnel, including our jockeys. It is because of our strict protocols requiring all jockeys to be screened prior to entering the facility that Javier’s symptoms were recognized and he was able to be tested for which we know he is thankful. Javier last rode at Gulfstream Park on March 15th and has not been back to the property since.
“Javier will not be able to return to riding at Gulfstream Park until after his mandatory 14-day quarantine is complete and he has received a clean bill of health from his medical practitioner. We wish him a speedy and complete recovery.”
Besides riding at Gulfstream on March 15, Castellano was at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the day before to ride on the Rebel card, another race with important qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, which has been rescheduled for Sept. 5.
Another prominent sports figure, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, happened to be at Oaklawn that day, and he subsequently tested positive for COVID-19 last week and was experiencing symptoms. He said on Wednesday that the symptoms had cleared up during quarantine.
Castellano had been scheduled to ride at Gulfstream from Wednesday to Saturday, including 12 of 14 races on the Florida Derby card. He was supposed to have ridden 20-1 long shot Candy Tycoon in the main event.
Castellano was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame in 2017. Ranked No. 2 in North America in all-time purse earnings ($344,224,440), he won the Eclipse Award for most outstanding jockey four years in a row, from 2013-16.
He has won the Preakness twice, 12 Breeders’ Cup races, Saratoga Race Course riding titles in 2013 and 2014, and has ridden more Travers winners (six) than anyone, most recently aboard Catholic Boy in 2018.