Arriagada living dream come true
MIAMI – One week into the Gulfstream Park West fall meeting and the hottest trainer on the grounds is the little-known Juan Arriagada, who won with his first three starters at the meet before In His Image finished fourth in Thursday’s opener.
Arriagada sits atop the trainer standings despite having only nine horses under his care. A native of Peru, Arriagada came to the U.S. in 2004 and worked as an exercise rider for such prominent horsemen as Anthony Dutrow, Rusty Arnold, John Ward, and Anthony Peccoraro. He also owned horses that he trained himself in his free time.
“I’ve worked with horses all my life,” Arriagada said. “My grandfather trained horses in Peru, as did my father.”
Arriagada’s father, Raul, trained Al Khali in Peru in 2008 for his first three starts. Al Khali was sold and won the Grade 3 Saranac in 2009 and Grade 2 Bowling Green in 2010 with Bill Mott.
Arriagada took out his own trainer’s license in March 2017, splitting his time between Delaware Park in the summer and Tampa Bay Downs in the winter before deciding to apply for stalls at Gulfstream Park earlier this year.
“I talked to Bill Badgett, who put me in touch with the racing secretary, and they were kind enough to give me stalls at Gulfsream Park,” Arriagada said. “I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep them this winter when the Northern outfits started coming back. I didn’t want to be at Calder or Palm Meadows, so I was prepared to return to Tampa if I had to, but they gave me what I asked for and I’m delighted to be able to stay.”
Primarily a claiming trainer, Arriagada spends plenty of time down by the fence watching horses every racing day. He did find himself with a stakes runner earlier this year – the 3-year-old filly Estilo Femenino. A daughter of Midnight Lute, Estilo Femenino won two of her first three starts before finishing second behind the odds-on favorite and graded stakes winner Curlin’s Approval in the Sugar Loaf Key Handicap. Offers to purchase Estilo Femenino began to come shortly afterward.
“I bought her for $9,500 and sold her for $350,000,” Arriagada said. “When you’re a little guy like me with a good horse like that, people who have money want to buy them. And a guy like me has to sell.”
Arriagada, who resides locally with his wife, Allison, and a 7-week-old daughter, says he cannot believe the success he’s had since moving locally.
“It’s been amazing how well things have gone here for us,” said Arriagada, who owns all nine horses in his barn.
“All the horses have been running well,” he said. “Even when they don’t win they’ve been hitting the board or bringing home checks, and I can’t say enough nice things about the people here at Gulfstream Park, who couldn’t treat me any better. Everything has been like a dream come true.”