Riding For His Father Makes First Win Extra Special For Nicolas Arriagada

Two initiations took place at Tampa Bay Downs after 21-year-old apprentice jockey Nicolas Arriagada earned the first victory of his career in Friday’s sixth race on 9-year-old gelding Native Hawk at the Oldsmar, Fla., track.

One occurred on Arriagada’s return to the jockeys’ room, when his fellow riders lined up to welcome him into the fraternity of winners with buckets of ice water, shaving cream, soap and a couple of well-aimed sprays from a hose nozzle.

The first initiation came earlier, mere seconds after Arriagada and Native Hawk crossed the wire, when the winner’s owner and trainer – Tampa Bay Downs conditioner Juan Arriagada, Nicolas’s father  – received congratulations from fellow trainers, backstretch workers and fans ringing the winner’s circle.

Juan Arriagada, himself a former jockey in Peru and Chile who rode about 350 winners, struggled to keep his emotions in check as he floated onto the racing surface to high-five his son. They shared a heartfelt embrace after Nicolas dismounted, his father probably realizing everything this rite of passage actually represents.

“Oh my god, it was perfect,” Juan Arriagada said. “To be the second race of his life. … I’m just very proud of him.”

Earlier, in the fourth race, Nicolas had finished third on his father’s 6-year-old gelding Ellas My Love in his first career race. Coincidentally, another apprentice in search of his first victory, Eduviel Ignacio, finished second on Gettinintomischief in the fourth and second again in the seventh race on 43-1 shot La Bella Vita.

Both jockeys have worked the last few years as exercise riders for Tampa Bay Downs trainer Arnaud Delacour.

“I can’t really explain the feeling, except that it is the best feeling in the world,” Nicolas said after cleaning up from the traditional, messy initiation. “For people like us who are into horses, to win a race for your dad on your first day as a jockey. … I’m probably going to cry, because it is amazing.”

As his father suggested, the winning ride was close to flawless. Sensing the pace contested by Tiz Approved and Friendly Fella in the 6 ½-furlong claiming race was a bit too fast, Nicolas allowed Native Hawk to drop back several lengths before encouraging him on the turn for home. “Little by little, I started asking my horse and he started answering real good. He switched leads and opened it up at the finish,” Nicolas said.

The winning margin was 2 ¾ lengths. Nicolas’s mother, grandmother and sister watched the race together on television in Lima, Peru.

“My dad and I talked about the races a couple of days ago and he told me both horses had a chance and to keep them in the clear, don’t rush and see what happened,” Nicolas said. “He also told me ‘I can tell you a lot of things before a race, but when the gate opens a lot of things will change, and that is the difference with a good jockey – they make the right choices at the right moments.’ ”

Nicolas grew up in Peru and was tutored by his late grandfather, trainer Raul Arriagada, after Juan moved to the United States when the boy was 4. Nicolas arrived in the states in 2018, rejoining his father on his quest to become a jockey.

“He taught me how to ride here, because we don’t use a saddle in Peru. He put a saddle on a pony when we were at Delaware Park, and I’d ride that pony in a soccer field on the backside between races,” Nicolas said.

The experience working for Delacour was a godsend, too. “He taught me so many things and gave me so many opportunities. He’d take me aside and say ‘Nicol, that was good, but you can do better if you do this.’ That meant so much.”

And the treatment from his fellow jockeys on a pretty warm day (which, in the interest of full disclosure, Nicolas knew was coming)? Superb. He will remember it for a lifetime.

“It was just beautiful, because those are the guys I work with every morning. We see each other every day and we work together,” he said. “They’ll tell me things I can do to get better, and I go out and practice them. It was a good moment.

“When I got there and saw them waiting, I just closed my eyes and it felt real nice.”

Around the oval. Antonio Gallardo and Jose Ferrer each rode two winners Friday. Gallardo won the first race on April Fog, a 6-year-old mare owned by Michael R. Di Tomasso and trained by M. A. Ferraro. Gallardo added the ninth and final race on the turf with Harrykeepthechange, a 3-year-old Florida-bred gelding owned by Reitman Stables and trained by Darien Rodriguez.

Ferrer blocked Ignacio’s path to the winner’s circle on two occasions, first in the fourth race on 7-year-old gelding Executive Decree, owned and trained by Gregory Eidschun. Ferrer also won the seventh on Bahamian Moon, a 4-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Ridenjac Racing and David F. Kegley and trained by Dennis Ward.

The post Riding For His Father Makes First Win Extra Special For Nicolas Arriagada appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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