Multiple Eclipse Award winner Javier Castellano; Victor Espinoza, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner and regular rider for Triple Crown hero American Pharoah; the late Garrett Gomez; and treble GI Breeders’ Cup Mile victrix Goldikova (Ire) (Anabaa) are the 2017 inductees into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, the body announced Monday morning. The quartet will be inducted at ceremonies to be held Friday, Aug. 4, at the Humphrey S. Finney Sales Pavilion on the Fasig-Tipton sales grounds.
Castellano, who turns 40 this October, is a native of Venezuela, and shifted his tack to the United States in 1997, riding first in Florida before dropping roots in New York in 2001. According to Equibase statistics, Castellano has ridden the winners of 4,664 races to date for earnings in excess of $276 million, already fifth on the all-time list. Castellano came into national focus in 2003, teaming with Adena Springs’ Ghostzapper to win the GI Vosburgh S. and later the GI Woodward S., GI Met Mile and GI Breeders’ Cup Classic, one of seven victories on Championship Day. Castellano, whose lone Classic victory to date came courtesy of Bernardini (A.P. Indy) in the 2006 GI Preakness S., is the four-time defending Eclipse Award-winning jockey and has won no fewer than 10 titles on the competitive New York circuit. North America’s leading rider by earnings for each of the last four seasons, Castellano established a new single-season earnings record with $28.1 million in 2015. His other top horses include champions Flintshire (GB), Honor Code, Dayatthespa and Princess of Sylmar.
Victor Espinoza did not speak English when he came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1990, and after riding with some success as an apprentice at Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows in Northern California, relocated to Southern California and teamed with The Thoroughbred Corp’s Spain to cause a massive upset in the 2000 GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff before annexing the GI La Brea S. later that year. Third aboard the Bob Baffert-trained Congaree in the 2001 GI Kentucky Derby, Espinoza partnered with War Emblem, a colt purchased privately by the late Ahmed Salman, to win the Run for the Roses and the GI Preakness S. After a bit of a lull in his career, Espinoza was back in the national spotlight in 2014, as California Chrome gave the rider another Derby and Preakness, but it was his mount along the 2015 Triple Crown trail that secured Espinoza’s place in history. American Pharoah, the previous year’s Eclipse Award-winning juvenile despite missing the Breeders’ Cup, swept all before him to become the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years with a towering, front-running success in the GI Belmont S. American Pharoah closed his career with a wire-to-wire in the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic. California Chrome kept Espinoza’s name in lights in 2016, with a win in the G1 Dubai World Cup and GI TVG Pacific Classic and a near-miss second to Arrogate in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic. Espinoza, 44, has 3,318 riding wins to his credit for earnings of better than $193 million.
Garrett Gomez will enter the Hall of Fame posthumously after passing away in December 2016. Whereas Castellano and Espinoza established their reputations on either coast, Gomez worked his way through the ranks at a variety of tracks in the Midwest, including Ak-Sar-Ben and Oaklawn Park, where he won back-to-back runnings of the Arkansas Derby in 1994 and 1995. Gomez made an immediate impression after moving to Southern California, riding major graded stakes winners for the likes of Bobby Frankel and Bob Baffert, and in 2005, he recorded the first pair of his 13 Breeders’ Cup victories with Stevie Wonderboy and catch mount Artie Schiller. Gomez was in the saddle when Blame handed Zenyatta the only defeat of her career in a thrilling finish to the 2010 GI Breeders’ Cup Classic. His final Breeders’ Cup win came aboard future Hall of Famer Beholder in the 2012 GI Juvenile Fillies. A two-time Eclipse Award winner, Gomez won a record 76 stakes races in 2007 and was the leading North American jockey by earnings each year from 2006-2009.
Wertheimer et Frere’s Goldikova won a total of 14 Group 1 or Grade I races during a magnificent career, her sensational turn of foot carrying her to a record three consecutive victories in the GI Breeders’ Cup Mile (2008, 2009 at Santa Anita and 2010 at Churchill Downs). After leading into the final furlong of the 2011 Mile, she was forced to settle for a close third. Trained by Freddy Head and ridden exclusively by Olivier Peslier, Goldikova was named America’s champion turf female in 2009 and 2010 to go along with seven combined championship seasons in France and England. Goldikova amassed a record of 27-17-6-3 and earnings of $7,176,551.
Contemporary electees to the Hall of Fame were chosen by a nationwide voting panel of 186 racing writers, broadcasters, industry officials and historians from a group of 11 finalists as selected by the Hall of Fame’s nominating committee.