Peter Castellanos loves horse racing. So much so that the New York-born Florida resident went from a one-horse stable two years ago to a collection of 45 in the care of seven different trainers in two countries.

Castellanos is the majority owner of Paterpop Racing (pronounced Pat-er-pop) with three friends. He recently had eight of his horses arrive at Woodbine for the 2024 season which begins Saturday, April 27.

“I am having tons of fun,” said the energetic Castellanos, who is retired from a career in accounting. “I just love it. It’s a lot more work now with all these horses but I love the claiming game.”

Woodbine has been on the top of Castellano’s bucket list for some time. He and a group of friends annually visit as many tracks, hockey arenas, and stadiums as they can and Woodbine was a destination in 2020 before COVID hit.

Now he will make the trek north as much as he can to see his horses race at the Toronto track. His trainer is Martin Drexler, a finalist for the Sovereign Award for Outstanding Trainer in 2023.

Castellanos fell in love with horse racing the way most of us did. “Tell me if you’ve heard this story before,” said said. “Kid sneaks over a fence to get into the racetrack…”

Castellanos and his family lived across the street from Belmont Park when he was young. “My parents told me, don’t ever go over there. So of course, I did. Horse racing back then, there was pageantry and the grandstand was full. I could hear the roosters in the morning and the crowd in the afternoon.”

Along with a buddy, who would collect discarded programs midway through the day to re-sell and charge a dollar to crawl through a hole they made in the fence, Castellanos would watch the races and learn handicapping.

“The first thing I looked at was body language. “It took patience to look at horses over time. Eventually, I started talking to others and learning more about handicapping.”

It was in 2022 when Castellanos and a few friends met trainer Jennifer Young while having dinner at a restaurant they picked out on the spur of the moment in Florida.

Young would be the trainer of the first horse the friends would claim. Paterpop is made up of Castellanos (85 percent), and friends Pat, Peter and Ray, affectionately known as ‘poppa’.

Castellanos, who sifts through each day’s entries at tracks everywhere, first became interested in Drexler in 2023, noting how well the Canadian trainer’s horses looked and performed.

“You meet a lot of trainers when you become an owner and frankly, a lot of them are full of shit. I love to communicate with my trainers, I love talking horses. I saw Marty’s horses in Florida and when they came over, they all looked so good. As an owner, you feel good about that.”

And Castellanos was intrigued by racing his horses at Woodbine. “On television it looks like an unbelievable experience, like something I can’t even picture. “There are all the different distances on the turf, and the Tapeta, and I have mostly Tapeta horses.”

The Paterpop horses won 32 races in 2023 and have already won 19 races this year. The Florida string is trained by Fernando Abreu.

Last weekend, Fighter in the Win finished second in a $101,000 Woodbine allowance race for the stable.

While Castellanos says he is on hold from claiming more horses at the moment, he is excited to see Scoot Daddy and Frank’s Art, among others, race at Woodbine this year.

“We are in this sport to race, make the starts with them, and then take care of them. I love it so much and at the same time, I try not to take it too seriously.”