by Mike Henry

In a sport where luck can play an outsized role, Tampa Bay Downs owner-trainer Juan Arriagada tries to make his own.

“You can know a little bit, but you play with luck a lot in this business,” said Arriagada, who earned the Boot Barn Trainer of the Month Award by sending out six winners between Dec. 21 and Jan. 13. “It’s very easy for something to go wrong, and it’s hard for stuff to go right. So I would say I’m a lucky person.”

juan arriagada

Juan Arriagada

That good fortune was evident two years ago with Estilo Talentoso, a filly he had purchased for $15,000 at the 2019 June 2-Year-Olds & Horses of Racing Age sale at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company. She went on to win more than $530,000 in her career, with a victory as a 4-year-old in the Grade III Bed o’ Roses Stakes at Belmont and second or third-place finishes in five other graded stakes.

Estilo Talentoso retired after her 4-year-old season, sending Arriagada on a new quest to find the proverbial pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. But even without that kind of horse in his barn, he still thanks his stars each morning for his good fortune.

A solid family foundation, with his wife Alison at the core, motivates the 45-year-old Peru product to keep striving to improve. And reminders of what really matters – like the one he received before Wednesday’s sixth race – give him an added boost.

When he arrived at the paddock to saddle 4-year-old filly Liking It Twisted, Arriagada’s attention was diverted by a familiar voice. “Daddy,” 4-year-old daughter Tezza called, standing outside the gate with Alison’s parents.

Those kind of moments would mean a lot to just about anyone, and Arriagada knows it is his role to channel them toward success (at least as much as luck allows).

“I feel that when good things happen to you in life, the next morning when I open my eyes I want to keep working and doing stuff better,” said Arriagada, who also leads the Oldsmar Owner Standings with seven winners. “So I keep trying to do my best and try not to make the same mistakes.”

Arriagada is carrying on from last season, when he was fourth-leading trainer with 23 winners and second-leading owner with 21 victories.

“When things are going right, you have to try to keep it that way. It’s like when you’re a jockey leading a race – it’s no good looking back. You have to stay focused on the wire,” he said.

Juan and Alison, herself a former trainer, collaborate at their Tampa Bay Downs barn, with Alison getting on horses each morning, providing feedback and tending to a variety of other chores. Juan’s 23-year-old son Nico, formerly a jockey, stops by occasionally to help after working his job galloping horses for trainer John Rigattieri.

Another daughter, 24-year-old Natalia, is back in Peru working in the health insurance business. She has a 2 ½-year-old son.

All those family connections help Arriagada, who won about 300 races as a jockey in Peru and Chile, keep his eye on the important things, which include his string of 19 Thoroughbreds.

Arriagada has high hopes for his 4-year-old filly Practicality, purchased by him for $10,000 at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale. He gave her a couple of quarter-mile breezes about a month after the purchase, then felt heat in one of her legs. After consulting with a veterinarian, the conditioner opted for surgery. “The vet told me she could be ready to race in 4-to-5 months, but I gave her 13 months,” he said.

Practicality began her career here on Nov. 23 with a second, then won a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight contest on Dec. 21. Arriagada plans to send her to Gulfstream Park next Friday for a 7-furlong allowance race.

That kind of patience, Arriagada believes, accounts for some of the luck that seems to keep coming his way. “When you take time with them,” he said, “maybe they give you something back. I took time with (Practicality) because I knew maybe I can get something decent.”

Arriagada is also the owner and trainer of the popular 11-year-old gelding Native Hawk, 2-for-2 at the current meet. Arriagada retired him after his last victory, the 20th of his career.

Around the oval.  Leading jockey Samy Camacho rode three winners today, his third hat trick in the last four days. He rode two winners Wednesday.

Camacho captured the first race on Thunder Buggy, a 5-year-old mare owned by Benjamin Sanchez and trained by Antonio Machado. Camacho added the eighth with Above Par, a 6-year-old mare owned by Gumpster Stable and trained by Darien Rodriguez.

samy camacho

Samy Camacho

Camacho swept the late daily double, capturing the ninth race on the turf aboard Fluid Situation, a 4-year-old Florida-bred colt owned by Curragh Stables and trained by John P. Terranova, II.

Camacho’s three other mounts today finished second. He has won on 11 of his last 24 mounts, with six seconds.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.

Tampa Turf Test is Saturday. The second legs of the Tampa Turf Test starter handicap series, for horses 4-years-old-and-upward which have started for a claiming price of $16,000 or less in 2022-23, are Saturday on the turf course. The seventh race is for fillies and mares and the ninth and final race on the card is for males. Both races are a mile-and-a-sixteenth in distance.

Pugilist, an 8-year-old mare owned by Wasabi Ventures Stables and trained by Jesse Cruz, is a 7-2 morning-line favorite in the Fillies and Mares Division. Antonio Gallardo is her jockey.

Gallardo also has the assignment on the 7-2 morning-line favorite in the Males Division, 7-year-old gelding Smithwick’s Spice, who is owned by New Spice Stable and trained by Doug Nunn.

“Live It Up Challenge” handicapping contest begins Saturday. The deadline to register for Tampa Bay Downs’s annual “Live It Up Challenge” handicapping contest is 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. The event runs from Saturday through March 11, which is Festival Day 43 at the Oldsmar oval. Visit on the Internet to enroll.

There is no charge to enter. The first-place winner will receive two free seats into the 2024 “High Rollers Contest” at Tampa Bay Downs, which will be held in February of 2024. “High Rollers Contest” seats cost $1,000, so first prize in the “Live It Up Challenge” is a $2,000 value.

Second, third and fourth-place winners each receive one free seat into the 2024 “High Rollers Contest” event. Additionally, a bonus prize of $500 will be awarded to the participant selecting the most winners during the “Live It Up Challenge.”

Participants are required to select one horse from two of each day’s three “Challenge Races,” with bankroll totals determined by the win/place/show results from each player’s choices.

Each player begins the contest with one free lifeline. Additional lifelines become necessary to advance in the contest whenever either of a player’s choices does not finish first, second or third in a race or when a player does not make a selection in that day’s “Challenge Races” for any reason (players cannot lose more than one lifeline each day of the contest).

As always, additional lifelines may be purchased, with participants eligible to buy eight lifelines at $5 each any time before the first contest race; eight for $10 each on Feb. 3; and four for $25 each on Feb. 17. In the event all players are eliminated before the end of the contest, the four players with the most money will be declared the prize winners.

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.