First stakes win “a relief” for jock Ashley Castrenze
by Ted Black
When jockey Ashley Castrenze began her career earlier this year by winning aboard her first four mounts and six of her first seven rides, the youthful apprentice rider was enjoying the type of success that might have made former legendary female jockeys Julie Krone and Rosie Napravnik feel as though she could someday join them among the short list of top female riders.
But Castrenze, 19, cooled off somewhat over the next four months – she had 33 wins from 229 starts this season through Sunday — and this past Saturday afternoon she finally attained the first stakes victory of her young career when she steered Caribou Club to a nose victory over Undulated in the $75,000 Laurel Futurity at 5 1/2-furlongs on the Laurel Park grass. Caribou Club, second on debut at Laurel, had finished third in a maiden special weight event at Saratoga with Manuel Franco in the irons in his most recent try before taking the Laurel Futurity for his first win in three outings.
“It’s a relief,” Castrenze said of her first stakes victory on Saturday. “I thought I had it because the stretch is so long. I know it’s going to the second finish line, and my horse was coming from off the pace, so I think I had a bit of an advantage over the horse on the lead.”
The quick start to Castrenze’s career had some positives, as well as some negatives.
“It definitely helped publicize my name and everything,” the rider said. “People know who I am because of it. [On the other hand] I won six races and had started my 7-pound bug and I barely rode six races and I was still really green out there.”
Caribou Club had finished second to Greatbullsoffire in their respective career debuts at Laurel in July. At Saratoga, trainer Tom Proctor’s charge finished third despite a troubled trip as the 2-1 favorite in a one-turn maiden special weight event on the grass. He returned to training at Fair Hill in late August and early September, where Castrenze said she worked the horse twice for Proctor. Castrenze admitted both she and the colt have matured over the past several months.
“He was really green that first start,” Castrenze said of Caribou Club, a homebred son City Zip owned and bred by Glen Hill Farm. “I think he’s matured a lot since that first start. Today I started to get after him left-handed turning for home and he responded. When he came into the lane, he felt really good. When I got after him he responded, especially after I hit him a couple of times left-handed.”
Castrenze had two other mounts in stakes races for Proctor on Saturday, steering Consulting to a third-place finish in the $75,000 Selima Stakes for two-year-old fillies on the grass and then finishing unplaced with Curlish Figure in the seven-furlong Shine Again stakes for fillies and mares on the main track. Through Saturday she has won 33 races from 229 mounts – a 14 percent clip – with earnings of over $860,000 and credits Proctor with providing her with live mounts, compliments and constructive criticism after virtually every race.
“You know, Proctor has done everything for me,” said Castrenze, who notched her first two winners aboard Proctor trainees Sister Pat and Oldstone Farmhouse. “I galloped for him before I ever rode races and he’s always had my back. I’m a bug and he’s letting me ride stakes horses. He’s done everything to help get me here and teach me. After every race, win or lose, he has something positive or criticizing to say.”
Castrenze obviously knows she is many winners away from being compared with either Krone or Napravnik and despite her early success she’s still not the winningest rider in her immediate family. Her mother, Jackie Acksel, won 311 races from 2877 mounts in a career that spanned 30 years, with her best season occurring in 1992 when she won 143 races from 1,017 mounts and earned nearly $600,000.
“I always loved being around horses,” Castrenze said. “When I first started galloping horses, they would run off with me all the time. But I learned a lot about galloping horses working for Proctor. It was a good experience for me. When I first started riding races I didn’t know if I was ready. But the horses ran well for me. I never expected to win that many races that soon. I thought it would be really tough to win my first five races.”