Castrenze out of breath, but glad to be back
by Frank Vespe
Ashley Castrenze could barely catch her breath.
“I’m sorry,” she gasped. “I’m out of breath — really tired.”
Friday she had good reason to be. For the first time since last October 16, she’d ridden a horse in a race.
On that fall day, her mount, Cats Serenade, had broken down in a nasty, chain-reaction spill on the turf at Laurel Park.
On Friday, by contrast, she had ridden Kieron Magee trainee Minor Legend to a rallying third in a Maryland-bred allowance race.
It had been a long road back for the 20-year-old.
“I’m definitely excited to be back,” she said after the race. “It’s just going to take me a while to get back to where I was.”
In fact, the road back to racing had been longer than she’d expected.
“At first when I went to the hospital, they told me I broke one rib,” she explained. “Then when I went back a couple weeks later they told me I broke four. Every time I’d go to the doctor I’d think they were going to clear me, and then they said [to] give it another month. It took a while.”
She returned to work in late January, galloping horses in the mornings for Magee, among others, but that’s not quite the same as what happens in the afternoon.
“It’s a lot different than working horses in the morning,” she explained. “I’ve been getting on a bunch of horses in the morning, but riding races gets you pretty tired.”
On Friday, Castrenze had just the one mount. Four wide on the turn, she came wider and rallied for the show spot. She had five more mounts scheduled for Saturday, for four different trainers, Magee among them.
Castrenze set the racing world on its ear when she debuted. She won the first four races of her career and six of her first seven. In September, she recorded her first ever stakes win when she guided Caribou Club to a narrow score in the Laurel Futurity.
Just a month later, though, she suffered the rib injury that’s kept her out of action these long months. She’ll still have her bug — the five-pound apprentice allowance — for seven more months. But though she thinks it’ll take a while to get back to where she was, Magee, for one, isn’t worried.
“It’ll come to her. A couple races from now she’ll be fine,” said the Pimlico-based trainer. “She probably will be the top bug rider around here. This is my girl.”