As part of a new series, we asked a number of people not born into racing families why they got into the sport, and what their first racing memory was.
SHANNON CASTAGNOLA, Director of Sales, Woodford Thoroughbreds
Why did you get involved in the sport?
Like so many, I was that little girl who loved horses and even at a very young age was fascinated by them. We lived in Eastern Kentucky because my dad was a helicopter pilot for a coal company. However, if there was a horse, of any shape, color, or size, that we passed driving on mountain roads, I would beg my family to pull over and allow me to reach my little arm through a fence opening to pet a whiskered muzzle. The horse addiction was fed when we moved to Lexington when I was nine and started riding lessons which carried me through high school. I taught at a summer riding camp while in college.
I wasn’t exposed to the Thoroughbred industry until I graduated from the University of Kentucky. I had planned on being a political reporter and was sending out audition tapes to local (and not so local) television stations, when the Keeneland September sale came around and in need of a paycheck and open to new experiences, I showed yearlings for Taylor Made Sales Agency. It was during that three-week period that the direction of my life forever changed. The atmosphere of the sale hooked me. I was already a lover of the animal, but it was the people that stood out to me. The characters in the horse industry are endlessly entertaining. Nineteen years later I’m the director of sales at Woodford Thoroughbreds. Because Woodford is one of the few yearling consignors to also sell 2-year olds, I spend a lot of time on the sale grounds.
What is your earliest racing memory?
In seventh grade I wrote a paper on Sunday Silence versus Easy Goer and compared and contrasted their upbringing and race record. I was inspired by watching that year’s Kentucky Derby on television.
STEVE CASTAGNOLA, Bloodstock Agent
I grew up just south of London in Surbiton, Surrey and my first exposure to horse racing was my first bet on April 9th, 1983, when my mom let my brother and I pick out a horse in the 137th edition or the Grand National. I was 12 years old and my 50 pence each way wager went on an 8-year-old chestnut with a big white blaze named Corbiere. We were driving in the car during the race and listened to it on the radio! Corbiere won at 13-1 and his trainer, Jenny Pitman, became the first female trainer to ever win the Grand National. To date, only two women have trained Grand National winners, Venetia Williams being the other, however both Rebecca Curtis and rookie trainer Kerry Lee both have hopefuls for this year’s addition and the hope to join Pitman and Williams on that list.
That lead to many trips from that day on, riding a train and two buses by myself to attend the races at Kempton Park and having to figure out how to get in the Grandstand as an unaccompanied youth (It was a different world back then)! Now I’ve shared the reason my bloodstock agency is named Kempton Bloodstock!