By Katie Merritt
Trainer Ariel Gordon is originally from El Paso, Texas, where she spent many mornings with her dad at Sunland Park while he helped to construct barns. “He was a welder, so he did a lot of work for the Arnetts and the McArthurs,” she explained, “And he would take me to see the workouts in the mornings. It bit me,” she added with a smile. ‘It’, of course, being the proverbial racing bug. Gordon later moved to the Bay Area of Northern California, where she spent as much time as she could at Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows.
Ariel’s first job with horses was at Legacy Ranch in California, where she worked for three years doing mare-watch at nights, before getting her grooms license and going to work at the racetrack in 2010. It didn’t take long for her to get her trainer’s license in 2011, when she was just 18 years old. “I started off training mules in Northern California, and my first year I won a buckle for leading trainer,” she remembered. After her success in mule racing, however, she was drawn back to the Thoroughbreds where she worked as an assistant trainer for a couple years before going out on her own once more. “I worked for Jeff Metz in Phoenix [Turf Paradise] and I went with him to Seattle [Emerald Downs],” she said, adding, “Jeff taught me a lot about the business side, about networking and going up and talking to people, because I used to be really quiet.”
In 2015, Gordon felt confident enough to try her hand at training on her own again, this time with Thoroughbreds. She started out with two horses, and one of them was a 7-year-old chestnut gelding named Sandy’s Diamond. “I was working for Justin Evans and I bought the horse from him for 750 bucks,” she recalled, “The first time I ran him he won by 6, and then the next time I ran him, he won by 10. I took him up to Colorado and he won three in a row at Arapahoe.” He was retired after that last win, and lives at Ariel’s house in Phoenix, Arizona, where her mom rides him on occasion when it’s not too hot. “He’s not going anywhere, ever!” Arielle smiled, “He really started it all, so he’s got a special spot.”
In only a short time, Gordon’s stable has gone from two horses to twenty. “We’re growing fast,” she said, “And, we’ve been really lucky.” Ariel’s horses may not be odds-on favorites all the time, but they’re running well more often than not. Though it is only half-way through 2017, this has already been her best year. From 79 starters, she’s had 15 wins, 8 seconds and 15 thirds, almost 20% winners, and close to 50% hitting the board.
Fortunately, Ariel’s horses seem to be fitting in quite nicely at Canterbury Park, a track that she enjoys coming to. “I love Minnesota,” she beamed. “They’re very catering to the horsemen here. And I like going up to the races and seeing packed grandstands. It’s so cool. It’s a young crowd here too, so they’re really enthusiastic. You don’t see that a lot of places.” Canterbury’s meet also works well with Turf Paradise’s schedule – where Gordon spends her winters – which means that we can likely count on both Gordon and her steadily growing stable to come back in the future.