From Santa Anita Publicity
ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 6, 2017)–Five finalists for one of American racing’s most prestigious honors, the Santa Anita George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, have been announced, with the winner to be revealed in February following a vote of jockeys nationwide.
Jockeys Alex Birzer, Javier Castellano, Jose Ferrer, Rodney Prescott and Joe Talamo are the finalists for the prestigious trophy that has been presented annually by Santa Anita since 1950.
One of the most coveted awards in all of racing, the Woolf Award, which can only be won once, is presented to a different jockey each year and it recognizes those riders whose careers and personal character earn esteem for the individual and the sport of Thoroughbred racing. The trophy is a replica of the life-sized statue of legendary jockey George Woolf, which adorns Santa Anita’s Paddock Gardens area.
Woolf, who died at the age of 35 following a spill on Santa Anita’s Club House turn on Jan. 3, 1946, was regarded as one of the top big-money riders of his era. Known affectionately as “The Iceman,” he was revered by his colleagues, members of the media and fans across America as a fierce competitor and consummate professional who was at his best when the stakes were high.
The 2018 Woolf ballot, which will be distributed to active jockeys across the country, features five highly regarded riders who have plied their trade with honor and distinction.
A native of Hutchinson, Kansas, Alex Birzer was born Oct. 2, 1973. A rock-solid fixture in the nation’s heartland, Birzer first came to prominence at the now-shuttered Woodlands outside Kansas City, Kansas, where he was a four-time leading rider. Also a four-time kingpin at Prairie Meadows, just outside Des Moines, Iowa, Birzer notched his 3,000th career win at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas on Feb. 26 of this year. He’s also had top-five performances at Oaklawn and at Remington Park in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
A superstar by any accounting, Javier Castellano has been America’s leading money-winning rider for the past four years and, dating back to 2013, he has won four consecutive Eclipse Awards as America’s Champion Jockey. The son of a jockey, Castellano was born Oct. 23, 1977 in Maracaibo, Venezuela. A winner of this year’s Preakness Stakes aboard Cloud Computing, Castellano burst upon the national stage by winning the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic aboard Ghostzapper at Lone Star Park. Inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame this past August, Castellano’s 2015…