Weekend Interview: Ashley Castrenze

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Apprentice jockey Ashley Castrenze got her career off to a flying start back in April, winning with her first mount at Tampa Bay Downs, and she’s kept winning throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

The 19-year-old daughter of retired jockey Jackie Acksel and late trainer Charles Castrenze won a dozen races from 40 mounts through Saturday and from Sunday to Thursday she’s named on horses at Monmouth Park, Delaware Park, Parx Racing, Penn National, Belmont Park and Pimlico.

One of the trainers she’ll ride for Sunday is Tom Proctor, who put her on Sister Pat for that first victory April 15 at Tampa. The 10-pound apprentice, represented by agent John Weilbacher, continues to ride for Proctor and many other horsemen.

Castrenze recently spoke with This Is Horse Racing and The Saratoga Special intern and Delaware Valley University student Shayna Tiller about her career to date, her goals and her top supporters.

This Is Horse Racing: Where did you grow up?
Ashley Castrenze: In Tampa, Florida. My parents had racehorses so in the summertime when I was out of school we would go to the tracks up here. Sometimes we went to Parx, sometimes to New Jersey.

TIHR: How old were you when you first sat on a horse?
AC: Before I could walk. I’ve always been riding since I was really little. But back then it was ponies, not racehorses.

TIHR: What did you want to be when you were a little kid?
AC: I wanted to be a bunch of things. I wanted to be a vet, a marine biologist, a lot of things.

TIHR: What was it like growing up with a trainer father and jockey mother?
AC: I was never really into the racehorses; I was always more into riding the show horses and jumping. I never got into the racehorses until my mom said I could get a job at the track and get paid to hot walk or groom or something. So I started off hot walking horses and then grooming horses, and then I got to gallop horses.

TIHR: How is racing different than other sports?
AC: It’s so much different. Honestly, it’s a lot more competitive and a lot more fair I guess … and the money is a bit better which also helps. When I first started, I would get run off with all the time. I could not hold anything, and Tom (Proctor) would get so mad at me because I’d be getting run off with and the horses were out of control – I couldn’t hold them! It took me like a year to finally get it.

TIHR: Can you describe your first race on Sister Pat?
AC: I was excited and I was nervous. She was excited, and everyone knew she could win the race if I didn’t mess her up. So that made me pretty nervous. After anyone wins their first race, the other jockeys put ice water on them and spray them with shaving cream. The guy who kind of brought me up and gave me a chance at everything was Tom Proctor. I worked for him for two years before I started riding races and he was the one that put me on my first two winners. He’s always had my back and put me on a lot of his horses. He wanted me to hot walk the horse after the race whether I won or not. So I won the race and after I got shaving cream all over me and was hosed down, soaking wet. I couldn’t take a shower because I had to walk the horse after the race, so I had to change really quick and go walk the horse for an hour covered in shaving cream and dripping wet.

TIHR: What’s been the key to you getting off to such a good start?
AC: I’ve had pretty good success here at Delaware. On Opening Day at Delaware, I rode two races and won two races. That was really good for me because it was Opening Day, and it was kind of like a ‘Welcome to Delaware, it was a good decision to come here.’

TIHR: What are your plans for summer?
AC: I’m going to try to mostly ride at Delaware, and on the off dates that Delaware doesn’t race I’m going to try to get to the other racetracks around here, like Monmouth, Penn National, Laurel, Pimlico, Parx.

TIHR: What are your career goals?
AC: I want to definitely continue being a jockey and make as much money as I can and have a good time doing it. Of course I want to ride in the Kentucky Derby one day. Who wouldn’t?

TIHR: Who has helped you along the way?
AC: Mostly Tom Proctor. He gave me my start riding, and did everything to help me get ready to ride races. When I first started working for him I could barely gallop racehorses. Edgar Prado has helped me a lot. He always texts me with inspirational quotes and tells me things like ‘in this mile be nice to everyone and be humble.’ Nice little stuff like that.

TIHR: Who’s your favorite horse that you’ve ridden?
AC: Casual Cocktail is definitely my favorite. I gallop her in the morning and she’s so sweet and loving. I get along with her really well. She’s in the first stall in Tom’s barn and I always go and scratch her and give her peppermints.

TIHR: What are your interests outside of racing?
AC: As of right now, no, I don’t have time to do anything else! I’m at the track all morning, then go home and take a shower and come right back. There’s not much time to do anything else right now. I did volleyball when I was in high school but I was never as into it as the horse stuff.

TIHR: What type of music do you listen to?
AC: I like country music and pop mostly. Drake, The Weekend and Sam Hunt are probably my favorite.

TIHR: Favorite food?
AC: Pasta! Even though I’m not allowed to eat it most of the time.