HALLANDALE, Fla. — Herberto Castillo Jr., the trainer's son and the jockey when Scream Machine won his only two races, was the No. 1 choice to ride the 15-1 longshot in Saturday's $500,000 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
But the rider got a better offer, and trainer Gloria Castillo, his mother, understood perfectly. Castillo's mount is Pistols And Roses, who is the 3-1 second choice behind 7-5 Dance Floor in the 1 1/8-mile race, a major prep for the Kentucky Derby.
The original No. 2 choice to ride Scream Machine was Alex Beitia, who is married to one of Gloria Castillo's two daughters. But Beitia, whose brother, Eric, was shot and killed in an off-track incident while he was riding at Aqueduct in 1980, has won only a handful of races at Gulfstream this season, and Scream Machine's owner-breeder, Dewey White, wanted somebody more prominent.
Gloria Castillo then suggested David Penna, who is sixth in the standings here, but White asked for someone even more well-known than that. A call was put in to Pat Day, who is about as prominent as a jockey can be. Unlike Herberto Castillo Jr., Alex Beitia and David Penna, Day is a member of the Racing Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
The Castillos--Gloria's husband, Herberto Sr., is Scream Machine's exercise rider--can't quibble about Day, who rode Unbridled to victory in the Florida Derby two years ago. "We think any of those jockeys would have fit this horse," Herberto Sr. said, "but how can you say no to Pat Day? He's won all those (four) Eclipse Awards."
The Castillos haven't been able to say no to White about the racing schedule for Scream Machine, either. Scream Machine's chances were so remote in the Preview Stakes at Gulfstream last month that he was dropped into the parimutuel field, yet ran second, losing by a half-length to Waki Warrior, another Florida Derby entrant. After that, his trainer envisioned a Tampa Day Downs route to the Kentucky Derby, where the competition might be softer, but instead White wanted to keep the colt at Gulfstream.
Despite the difficulty of the assignment, trying to beat Dance Floor and the best local 3-year-old, Pistols And Roses, the Castillos are excited about Saturday's task. Gloria and Herberto Sr. have been married for 24 years, even though Gloria won't be 40 until next month and Herberto Sr. is 44. They are native Panamanians, and 25 years ago they met at 5 a.m.--not at an all-night diner, but at the barn of Gloria's uncle, who owned horses. Herberto was working then as a jockey, and Gloria, at 14, wanted to become a rider but knew her chances were nil. "It is different now, but there were no women riders in Panama then," she said. "For a long time, women were not allowed on the backstretch, period. We were supposed to be at home, cooking and taking care of our babies."
The Castillos were married a year later. Herberto had a long, uneventful career as a jockey, riding in Panama, Mexico, Europe and throughout the United States. His only chance to ride in the Kentucky Derby was thwarted just before the 100th running of the race, in 1974, when his mount broke a leg.
Scream Machine's sire, Cassaleria, who had only one eye and ran for the 20/20 Stable, made it to the Derby in Louisville, running 13th for trainer Ron McAnally in 1982.
In the first race of his career, Scream Machine could have been claimed for $35,000. He ran third that day, then raced three more times at Calder last winter before breaking his maiden there Nov. 3. After a third place at Hialeah, Scream Machine moved into stakes company and was fifth, 8 1/2 lengths behind Pistols And Roses, in the Bahamas on Nov. 30. Since then, he has had a 10 1/2-length allowance victory and two second places in Gulfstream stakes, the last in the Preview.
The recap shows two victories in 10 races and earnings of $60,000. There's no question his handlers are over-reaching Saturday, but then so are several horsemen in the Florida Derby, and only one of the 12 starters will have Pat Day riding. Here is the lineup, starting with the No. 1 post:
My Luck Runs North, Eddie Maple riding, morning-line odds of 30-1; Catire Bello, Doug Valiente, 8-1; Scream Machine, Pat Day, 15-1; Technology, Jerry Bailey, 6-1; Pistols And Roses, Herberto Castillo Jr., 3-1; Careful Gesture, Robert Lester, 12-1; Tiger Tiger, Julie Krone, 20-1; After The Beep, Jean Cruguet, 20-1; Black Question, Craig Perret, 20-1; Tank's Number, Jorge Velasquez, 30-1; Dance Floor, Chris Antley, 7-5, and Waki Warrior, Earlie Fires, 15-1.
All of the horses will carry 122 pounds, four less than Kentucky Derby weight.
Dance Floor shipped here from trainer Wayne Lukas' barn at Hollywood Park and won the Fountain of Youth Stakes on Feb. 22 by 4 1/2 lengths, beating Pistols Aand Roses and three others in Saturday's field . The hardest thing Dance Floor may have to do in the Florida Derby is overcome the No. 11 post, because outside positions have been deadly at Gulfstream this winter.