Javier Castellano, the Eclipse Award-winning jockey the past four years, is among five veteran riders who are finalists for the 2018 George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, it was announced on Wednesday morning by Santa Anita, which has presented the award annually since 1950.
In addition to Castellano, the other finalists are Alex Birzer, Jose Ferrer, Rodney Prescott, and Joe Talamo. The winner will be determined by a vote of the riders’ peers, members of the Jockeys’ Guild.
The Woolf Award honors achievements to racing both on and off the track. It is named for the late Hall of Fame rider who died in a racing accident at Santa Anita in 1946. The winner will be announced in February.
Castellano, 40, is at the peak of his career. In addition to being a four-time reigning Eclipse winner, he was inducted this past August into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. In 2015, his mounts earned $28.1 million, a single-season record for a jockey. Castellano has won the Preakness twice, including this year with Cloud Computing. He has won eight Breeders’ Cup races, including this year’s Juvenile Fillies Turf aboard Rushing Fall. He entered Wednesday’s action at Aqueduct with 4,804 career victories, and his mounts have earned more than $294 million.
Birzer, 44, has been a mainstay in the Midwest during his 25-year career, including four riding titles at Prairie Meadows. He is currently riding at Remington Park, where he entered action on Wednesday with 3,101 career victories, having passed the 3,000 mark earlier this year at Oaklawn Park.
Ferrer, 53, has won 4,189 races — most notably the Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes in 2000 at Saratoga — since he began riding in 1982. He has ridden primarily at Monmouth Park and in south Florida, and is currently riding at Tampa Bay Downs, where he recently returned to action after being sidelined for 2 1/2 months following an accident in September at Delaware Park. He has won more than 200 races in a calendar year three times.
Prescott, 43, has spent most of his career in or near his home state of Indiana, where he is the all-time leading rider at Hoosier Park (now a harness track). He has won 3,564 races during his career, which began in 1994. He has won 200 races in a calendar year four times, including a career-best 340 in 2005. He is currently riding at Hawthorne after spending the first part of this year at Turfway and then the bulk of the year at Indiana Grand.
Talamo, 27, has been a fixture on the Southern California circuit since relocating from his native Louisiana in 2007, the year he was named the Eclipse Award-winning apprentice jockey. He has won 1,815 races, including such prestigious Grade 1 events as the Santa Anita Handicap, Santa Anita Derby, Wood Memorial, and Shoemaker Mile. His mounts have earned more than $94 million during his career, and he has had four single seasons in which his mounts have earned more than $10 million, including three straight years from 2012 to 2014.