To Arrietas, It’s Land of Opportunity

BY JIM WELLS

He sends money home to his parents frequently, scrimping and saving here and there to support his wife and three daughters at the same time, all the while keeping in mind the values he guards like a strongbox, many of them learned since arriving in the United States, El Pais de Oportunidad.

Francisco Arrieta is truly an American immigrant in its iconic sense, a man looking for the opportunities that are nearly nonexistent where he came from, Venezuela.

He can’t imagine returning home, not now certainly, with the country in economic shambles, lines of hungry people standing in line for hours to procure something to eat, hospitals overcrowded, sickness abundant and basic supplies growing scarcer all the time.

Venezuela was the richest nation in Latin America during the 1990s, but has fallen into financial and social disrepair in the past few years, producing protests and unrest in a country of 32 million inhabitants.

Arrieta, who is riding for the second meet at Canterbury Park this summer, is never too busy to think about the friends and relatives he left behind, and he stays in touch, talking frequently with his parents and siblings. “It’s horrible for so many of them,” he said.

He and  his immediate family _ wife Elizabeth and daughters Frangelis, Anaeily and Abigail _  occupy a  travel trailer during the winter months when he rides at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, while they plan for the future, overcoming a setback here or there while staying focused on  the “bigger picture.”

“You have to work hard every day and never forget that,” he said. “You have to work hard and keep your sight on the future. And you have to keep your faith in God.”

Arrieta relied on those axioms daily while winning the jockey title at Turf Paradise last winter, riding just short of 200 winners, and they are uppermost in his mind now as he leads the rider standings at Canterbury Park.

He never considered not staying in the U.S. or bringing his family here to join him, even when all sorts of bureaucratic red tape tested his resolve and that of his wife, isolated in Venezuela while he worked out details for her and the girls to join him.

Three months, then six, then nine, twelve and ultimately 18 months, one delay after another, but he stayed in touch with his wife, Elizabeth, and they worked through it, she and the girls finally joining him in New York.

He would gallop horses mornings, get what mounts he could in the afternoon and then join Elizabeth, already on the job, cleaning a large office building, a daily job that helped them survive. A local church put together funds to buy them a car. Five months later he was able to buy his own, a 1996 Toyota.

“We were working hard, every day,” he said.

Another of those axioms…hard work eventually pays off.

There are more. For Arrieta, God is the decider, but a person has to be ready to take advantage of the opportunities he plants along the way. “You work hard, but God is always in front,”  he said.

Now, while they live out of their camper in Shakopee, he and Elizabeth are planning, saving and discussing the eventual purchase of a house of their own.

They are not there yet, haven’t even picked out a city.

Phoenix is a possibility. “We really like it there. It’s very nice in the winter,” Arrieta said. It’s also conducive to family life, with a meet that runs from November through April.

The Arrietas like it in Minnesota, too, during the spring and summer months. They like the social atmosphere. “We really like the, how do you say it ? ” he asked, checking for the English word on the screen of his phone. “Culture,” he was told. “Yes,” he said. “Cultura.”

“Everyone is open and talks about things,” he added. “At home I never talked about things to anyone.”

Not an issue any longer. He is friendly, engaging and just as often lets his skill aboard a racehorse speak for him.

He is quick to shake hands after an introduction with a smile every bit as swift, displaying an energy and willingness to work, no matter how tough the task.

He came north from South America, but don’t let his point of departure fool you. He might as well have crossed the pond from Europe and come through Ellis Island like so very many others.

Arrieta Hot on Chilly Afternoon

By Jim Wells

On Preakness Stakes Saturday, the sun was absent, the temperature 49 degrees with easterly winds of 14 mph and the humidity a damp 74 percent, which, all combined, produced the feeling it was about to snow.

Do not let that missing element fool you. It was still much like an early winter day.

“Man it’s cold,” was the common refrain. Some valets were wrapped in hooded sweatshirts beneath jackets. Rider Eddie Martin, Jr. wore a head-wrap beneath his helmet.

Nonetheless, Canterbury’s current leading rider, Franciso Arrieta, put a spotlight on the afternoon by sweeping both stakes races as part of a hat trick for the card.

The track was listed as muddy throughout the nine-race card that concluded with a simulcast of the lackluster Preakness Stakes.

“Small (crowd) turnout because there is no (possible) Triple Crown horse,” was another common sentiment. The problem with that point of view is that it excluded the weather forecast, which indicated heavy rain throughout the day,  and the downright chilly air. The skies stayed dry throughout the card, but, again, the combination of temperature, breeze and humidity created an atmosphere not unlike late November. Then again, we are talking Minnesota weather here, so what’s to discuss.

The card included two stakes races for Minnesota-bred horses, the 10,000 Lakes Stakes and the Lady Slipper Stakes, both worth $50,000.

For that kind of money, a shot at $30,000 to the winner, you might expect a lineup of, oh, say, six or seven horses on the low side.

By post time, though, there were three horses in the gate for the 10,000 Lakes after A P is Loose and Mr. Jagermeister both scratched.

“Hey, with one more scratch, we could have a match race,” was heard from more than one trackside analyst.

The day, as it turned out, did indeed belong to Arrieta, who gave Hot Shot Kid the ideal ride, suited to the circumstances.

“He’s been riding a lot of good horses, fast horses,” said trainer Mac Robertson. “And winning gives you confidence. When you have confidence you don’t have to wait.”

And Arrieta didn’t wait. He broke last, behind his two rivals, but had his head in front at the half mile pole, had a two-length lead at the head of the stretch and was in front by 4 ¼ at the wire.

Mines Made Up was second, 7 ¼ lengths in front of Speeding Kid.

“You did a nice job last time,” owner Warren Bush said to Arrieta in the paddock, minutes before the race. “Try to do that again.”

Arrieta did just that.

And he was the man in charge once more in the next race, the Lady Slipper, taking Aria Gia wire to wire to win by 3 ½ lengths, in commanding fashion. The winning time was 1:10.29, compared to 1:10:08 for the males.

Aria Gia was sent off at 9/5, favored over last year’s winner, Pinup Girl at 2-1. It was no contest once the gate opened, however, and owner/trainer Jose Silva, Jr., was delighted with the result.

He claimed the horse for $6,250 and she has won more than $120,000 overall, including Saturday’s take.

What attracted him to her ?

“I like fast horses,” he said.

And the way Arrieta handles the mount.

He rode the mare for the sixth time in Saturday’s race.

“The first time he got on her he told me that the horse doesn’t like the whip,” Silva said. “He knew that immediately.”

What happens if the stick is used ?

Well, the mare appeared headed to the winner’s circle at Turf Paradise last January when Denny Velazquez got into her with his sizzling whip. “When he did that, she stopped cold,” Silva said.

And finished third.

No danger of that on Saturday. She was easily in front of Honey’s Sox Appeal at the wire with Double Bee Sting another 3 ½ lengths back.

Arrieta Leaves More Than One Impression

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.

Opening Weekend In Review

Derby Day A Success At Canterbury Park

The sun was shining brightly in Shakopee for Kentucky Derby Day festivities. The track began its 25th season of racing the night before, providing a test run for what was to come the following day. The third largest crowd in track history, 20,770, flocked to the facility to gamble and party, filling all three levels of the grandstand as well as the track apron on Saturday.

Robertson and Arrieta Lead Early

Twelve-time leading trainer Mac Robertson got off to a quick start, winning four races from nine starters. Mac also had a second and third place finish. Robertson was in Louisville saddling Amy’s Challenge in the $500,000 Grade 1 Humana Distaff Saturday. The 2017 Canterbury Horse of the Meet finished third after setting the early fractions. Alex Canchari was aboard for local owner Joe Novogratz.

Trainer Mike Biehler was the only other with multiple winners. He won two races from five starters.

Jockey Francisco Arrieta made the most of his 11 mounts, winning five times. Three other riders each won twice: new face Constantino Roman, Dean Butler, and Eddie Martin, Jr. Arrieta is named on four horses at Turf Paradise as they close out their meet today.

Claiming Slow To Go

Six of the 16 races run this weekend offered horses to be claimed yet no claims were dropped. Expect that to change next weekend and horses to begin changing hands via the claim box.

Rider Injured in Paddock Incident

Jockey David Lopez came to Canterbury Park last week for the first time, expecting to fit the jockey colony well and make a living. He rode three horses Friday and six of the first seven on Saturday. When preparing to climb aboard his mount Brandy Chaser in the eighth and final event of the weekend, Lopez was kicked in the chest by the colt.

Lopez, a graded stakes winning and leading rider in Northern California during a career that began in North America in 2001, spent the winter at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. He came north with agent Chad Anderson and a reputation as a hard-working and patient rider.

The medical team on hand in the paddock yesterday quickly tended to Lopez and prepared him for transport to HCMC.  Anderson reported this morning that Lopez suffered broken ribs and that there is concern from doctors about possible internal complications.  Early prognosis is that a minimum three months on the sidelines can be expected.

Support the Leg Up Fund which assists riders injured in the line of work as they recuperate and return to the saddle.

Mother’s Day Racing Ahead

Live racing takes place this coming week on Saturday and Mother’s Day Sunday. Both days first post will be 12:45 p.m.

 

Photo courtesy of Coady Photography

Francisco Arrieta Makes An Impression at Canterbury

By Rebecca Roush

It’s been a long road to Canterbury Park for rider Francisco Arrieta, a new face this season in Shakopee.

Growing up in La Rinconada, Venezuela, the 29-year-old jockey has had a long history of horseracing. “I remember going to the racetrack when I was young and just loving everything about it,” Arrieta said. His uncle and cousins rode horses, which also sparked an interest for Arrieta.

At 16 he enrolled in a jockey academy where he got his first taste of riding and racing. He raced in his first meet at the Hipodrome de Santa Rita near Maracaibo, Venezuela at the age of 18.

Arrieta went on to have a successful racing career in South America before moving to North America to race in 2012. Before arriving at Canterbury, he raced at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Arizona, where he secured 67 wins out of 326 starts and finished sixth in the standings.

During his first few weeks at Canterbury, Arrieta has already proven popular, winning several times. His lifetime earnings total nearly $930,000.

“I have already made it to five hundred career starts and would like to retire with one thousand,” Arrieta said. The rider added that the most important part about racing is to never stop working. “Practice is the most important part about what I do,” he said. “Without practice you don’t go anywhere.”

“Racing is a big part of my life,” Arreita said. “I don’t know where I would be without it.” His favorite part about racing is the energy and excitement that it brings him and he can “definitely see that excitement at Canterbury from the fans.” Arrieta also enjoys being around the other jockeys here and said that Canterbury has “some of the nicest people to work with.”

When he’s is not on the racetrack, Arrieta enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time with his wife, Elizabeth and two daughters, Franyelis, 8, and Naeily, 6. “Both of my daughters enjoy being around horses and love watching me race,” he said.

Arrieta looks forward to a successful meet here and said he is “always looking for ways to improve and get better.”