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Racing News

Published May 1, 2024
by Mike Henry
Leading Oldsmar apprentice jockey Gabriel Maldonado with his agent, former jockey Eddie Joe Zambrana

Tampa Bay Downs owner-trainer Juan Arriagada says all the ingredients were in place to successfully defend his Leading Owner title at Tampa Bay Downs.

“I have great help and I have good horses,” said Arriagada, who has posted 26 victories as an owner, one more than he had last season. “And I have a great wife (Alison, a former trainer who gallops Arriagada’s horses in the mornings to prepare them for races).

“But the key in this sport is always the horses,” said Arriagada, a Lima, Peru product. “If you don’t have the right horses for the right races, you don’t have anything.”

With Friday and Saturday cards all that remains in the 2023-2024 meet, Arriagada is four ahead of owner-trainer Jamie Ness’s Jagger Inc. operation in the Leading Owner competition. Jagger has 22 victories, but Ness has shipped all of his horses to his other bases of operation, primarily in the mid-Atlantic.

Arriagada, who will ship about 30 horses to Delaware Park for the meet beginning May 15, says he wasn’t sweating things too much as Jagger narrowed the lead during the past couple of months. “Jamie Ness is probably one of the best trainers in the world, so I wouldn’t feel bad if he beat me,” Arriagada said of the nine-time Tampa Bay Downs training champion and 2015-2016 Leading Owner.

Currently, Arriagada is fifth in the Oldsmar trainer standings with 27 winners from 109 starters, a 24.8-percent clip. Kathleen O’Connell has sewn up her third Tampa Bay Downs training title.

While the competition for Leading Owner was nip-and-tuck down the stretch, Leading Apprentice Jockey Gabriel Maldonado never let his competitors get close enough to make him sweat. He has ridden 54 winners, 17 more than fellow apprentice Melissa Iorio.

Maldonado is third in the overall jockey standings, behind Samy Camacho, who has clinched his fourth consecutive crown and fifth overall, and Antonio Gallardo. Maldonado’s total is a Tampa Bay Downs record for apprentice riders.

Maldonado, who will mark his one-year anniversary as a jockey on May 21, will look to continue his winning ways this summer at Delaware Park and Monmouth Park in New Jersey, with an eye toward being recognized as an Eclipse Award finalist at the end of the year. His 49 winners in 2024 trail only Parx Racing and Aqueduct mainstay Eliseo Ruiz, with 65, among North American apprentices.

Agent Eddie Joe Zambrana said his 25-year-old Carolina, Puerto Rico protégé has made impressive strides throughout the Oldsmar meet. “He already rode well when he came here, but a lot of the trainers and people here are telling me how different he looks since then,” Zambrana said.

“He’ll ride seven or eight horses in the mornings, and he’s been riding more races as the meet has gone along. You never stop learning in this business, and the more horses he rides the more he keeps learning.”

Maldonado displayed his burgeoning skills in Saturday’s eighth race, a maiden special weight sprint, aboard 5-year-old mare Open Sky, at 57-1 the longest shot in the race. Paying no attention to the tote board, Maldonado had Open Sky in contention throughout before settling for a 1-length defeat to Change the Play.

“I believe in myself, so I just rode her like she had a chance to win,” Maldonado said.

“You always want to win, but he was happy because he ran second on a horse people didn’t think would hit the board,” Zambrana said.

Although Maldonado’s career got off to a relatively late start because of weight issues, he is making up for lost time. His career received a major boost when he went to work for top trainer Chad Brown a few years ago as an exercise rider at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, following the conditioner to such Thoroughbred meccas as Keeneland and Saratoga.

‘He learned a lot working for Chad Brown. When (Brown) told him he wanted a horse to work in 48 seconds (for a half-mile), he learned how to have a clock in his mind,” Zambrana said.

Arriagada, as part-owner and trainer, and Maldonado teamed to win today’s first race with 3-year-old Florida-bred filly Stylish Anna. It was the 11th victory here for the trainer-jockey combination.

What Arriagada said earlier about needing to have the right horses: count Maldonado among his “hosses.”

Santos, Sutherland to team up. Ademar Santos, who is 15th in the Oldsmar standings this season with 18 winners, will switch agents when he gets to Gulfstream Park next week.

Santos, who has worked for about seven years with his wife Rose Miranda as agent, will be represented at the south Florida track by jockey Chantal Sutherland, who has not ridden since being seriously injured after competing in a stakes race last May 6 at Gulfstream.

Sutherland was thrown after her mount, Haruki, pulled up abruptly after spotting several geese crossing the track, throwing Sutherland to the ground and separating her humerus bone from her shoulder. She also broke her left pelvis.

Although she is not officially retired, Sutherland still lacks the strength to ride races. She currently is the agent for apprentice jockey Melvis Gonzalez.

The move gives Miranda a chance to spend more time with the couple’s three sons.

“I’ve ridden with Ademar and he’s a strong rider with a lot of experience who is very professional,” Sutherland said. “He takes his job seriously but he has a good sense of humor, and it will be easy to go around with him in the mornings because he sells himself.”

“I’m very excited to work with her,” Santos said. “I think it will be a good experience for me. She’s a very smart person who knows a lot about the business. When an opportunity like this comes up, you have to take a shot.”

Around the oval. Jockey Miguel Vasquez turned into a one-man raiding party today, coming up from Gulfstream Park to ride three winners from four mounts. Vasquez won the second race on Survival Rose, a 3-year-old Florida-bred filly owned by Clinton Bagwandeen and trained by Renaldo Richards.

Vasquez next won the fifth aboard Mintenon, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Alexis Ubarri and trained by Victor Carrasco, Jr. The jockey added the seventh, a 5-furlong allowance/optional claiming event on the turf, on Wora, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Paula S. Capestro and trained by Richards.

Tampa Bay Downs will wrap up the current meet with racing cards Friday and Saturday. Friday’s nine-race card begins at 12:15 p.m., while Saturday’s card should begin around noon.

Friday’s simulcast action includes the 150th edition of the $1.5-million Longines Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. Post time is 5:51 p.m. It is the 11th race on the card. The 16-horse field (with two also-eligibles) includes Tampa Bay Downs’s Suncoast Stakes winner Power Squeeze, who will break from the No. 12 post. Her jockey is Daniel Centeno, a six-time Oldsmar track riding champion.

The Oldsmar oval will offer a full slate of racing on Derby Day to accompany the simulcast excitement from Churchill Downs – which will present seven graded-stakes races in addition to the Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve – and many other racetracks.

There are 20 3-year-olds entered in the Kentucky Derby (with two also-eligibles), which is the 12th race on the card. Post time is 6:57 p.m. Three horses in the field have competed at Tampa Bay Downs this season: Grade III Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby winner Domestic Product, Grade III Sam F. Davis third-place finisher and Pasco runner-up West Saratoga and Grand Mo the First, the third-place finisher in the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby.

West Saratoga will be ridden by two-time Tampa Bay Downs jockey champion Jesus Castanon.

Admission at Tampa Bay Downs on Saturday is $10, with children 17-and-under free. Valet parking is $25. The gates will open at 10 a.m., and the first local race will begin around noon. Automatic wagering terminals will be set up outside in front of the main Grandstand entrance for fans who decide to grab their tickets early and watch at home or elsewhere.

There will also be advance-wagering opportunities on the Kentucky Derby on Friday.



Leading Oldsmar apprentice jockey Gabriel Maldonado with his agent, former jockey Eddie Joe Zambrana

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