BY JIM WELLS
There is no way around it. Francisco Arrieta could win every race of a meet and trainers might not include that astounding information until late in a conversation.
And it’s his own fault.
He’s a heck of a person, a great guy, true to his word, diligent, honorable, trustworthy and a bonafide family man.
There is more.
He’s a humble, considerate, grateful human being.
With good reason.
Arrieta is a native of Venezuela who arrived in the United States simply looking for an opportunity to improve his life and those of his wife and, now, three daughters.
“I probably gave him three or four mounts last year and he stayed in touch with me all winter,” said trainer Larry Donlin.
“He’ll show up in the morning to gallop horses and you might not even expect him to,” another trainer said.
“He’s a great guy, very reliable and a good rider, too,” added Robertino Diodoro, for whom Arrieta had first call at Turf Paradise last winter, with dramatic results.
Not only did he basically earn another training title for Diodoro, he won the riding title for himself by riding 194 winners, 96 more than Denny Velazquez and 99 more than Scott Stevens.
Winning just short of 200 races had more than one Arizona trainer resigned to losing Arrieta to one of the bigger tracks in the country, perhaps a neighboring venue in California, something that could happen yet if he continues to ride as he has the past eight or nine months. Arieta made a quick impression at Canterbury Park this spring, winning six races nearly out of the gate.
Like many riders, Arrieta, at least for now, likes the transition from Turf Paradise, where he can spend eight months, to Shakopee for the summer meet.
A native of La Rinconada, Venezuela, Arrieta enrolled in a jockey academy when he was 16 years old and began race riding at 18. He found a way to New York where he began galloping horses in 2012, a step inside the door of racing in the United States, which had been in the back of his mind all along, if only originally in a dream state.
His foot is far inside the door now, enough so that he is planning for the family. “We want to buy a house,” he said…for himself, his wife, Elizabeth, and daughters Franyelis, nine; Anaeily, seven; and Abigail, three months.
“That’s the next step,” he said. And the location…Arizona, Minnesota, elsewhere ? “We haven’t decided that, yet,” he said.
What is much more certain is that the Arrieta is a rider to be reckoned with during the meet under way in Shakopee. As Diodoro says, “He’s a tremendous person, a hard worker and a very good rider.”
ANOTHER CHAMPION ON THE GROUNDS
Canterbury Park Hall of Fame rider Derek Bell is back in Shakopee galloping horses and planning to race ride, perhaps by next weekend. Bell, who won six riding titles in Shakopee, hasn’t ridden in three years but says he is in good physical condition and needs only to ride a few races to compete in what is a strong jockey colony.
“There are a lot of good riders, very good riders here,” he said. Bell doesn’t plan to ride as frequently as he did earlier in his career, but says he would be satisfied winning 20 races this summer.
He decided to dust off his tack and return to Shakopee, he said, after talking with trainer Mac Robertson, for whom he rode during past meets at Canterbury Park.