(PHOTO - RAMIRO CASTILLO owes a lot to Attila, the horse that changed his life - Laurie Overton photo)
Ramiro Castillo burst onto the Ontario Quarter Horse scene in early July of this year and the personable jockey has fallen in love with his new home.
“It’s super beautiful here,” said Castillo, who was born in Mexico City and had been riding Quarter Horses in Alberta for the past three years, twice as the leading rider. “It is a place of great opportunities.”
Castillo has won 20 races in less than three months riding at Ajax Downs and is currently pursuing his permanent residency in Canada.
He leaves no doubt when you speak to him that horses are his passion ever since he was growing up in Mexico and learning to ride races.
One horse in particular, Castillo says, is the reason he is riding successfully in Canada today.
In the early 1990s’ Castillo was riding under contract for a trainer with a big stable in Mexico until he got into a fight with the trainer and lost his job. The young rider had no more clients and was close to hanging up his tack when he met trainer Silviano Gutierrez and the mare Attila.
“I heard about this horse, a Thoroughbred. They said she was a bad horse,” said Castillo. “I start to ride her and she was the only horse I rode for one year. Every weekend, Attila.”
From distances of two furlongs to one mile, Castillo and Attila were a team and Gutierrez, his savior, says Castillo. Okay, so Attila never actually won a race, but the fact that Castillo showed up everyday to ride her kept him in sight of other trainers.
Eventually, opportunities to ride more horses became available and Castillo’s career as a jockey took off.
In 2013, after a friend who was riding in Vancouver, B.C. told him about the possibly of riding in Canada, Castillo packed his bags and headed north. He rode at Hastings Park and then moved to Alberta where he rode at Northlands, Lethbridge and Evergeen.
Riding Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, Castillo rode over 150 winners when he and his wife Angelle Carter, a former jockey and now trainer, made the move to Ontario. He is employed by top trainer Jason Pascoe and has ridden stakes winners such as the exciting 2-year-old colt R Painted Pistol this season.
“I am riding today because of Attila,” said Castillo. “She was a super happy horse and every time I rode her I was learning something.”
Castillo plans to break and gallop horses this winter in Ontario and ride for the full season at Ajax in 2017.
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