01/23/2017 2:50PM

Arriaga starting to get noticed


OZONE PARK, N.Y. – As a longtime exercise rider for trainer Todd Pletcher, Antonio Arriaga has gotten to work with some extremely talented horses. As a fledgling trainer, Arriaga can only hope to one day get those types of horses under his own shed row.

Arriaga, 39, has steadily wound down his career working for others and in 2016 ramped up the process of training on his own full time. Last year, he won five races from 33 starters, including going 3 for 3 at Saratoga.

Arriaga’s first win of 2017 came last Thursday at Aqueduct, where Bullheaded Boy sprang a 10-1 upset in a $12,500 claiming event. Though Bullheaded Boy had once been in Pletcher’s barn, Arriaga said it was owner Steven Schauer’s call to claim him for $16,000 from David Jacobson on Dec. 11.

“I claim whatever my owners like,” Arriaga said. “I just told them they can’t claim off Todd.”

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Arriaga’s stable has grown to nine head since he hooked up with Schauer’s The Players Group last summer. Schauer said he met Arriaga when he worked for trainer Jacqueline Olenik.

“I knew he was a good horseman, I knew he was a good rider, so I gave him a shot,” Schauer said. “It’s been a good relationship.”

Three of the seven horses Arriaga and The Players Group have claimed since last summer have won. Two others ran third.

Arriaga was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. in the mid-1990s. He said he’s worked for several trainers in New York, including Bill Mott, Kiaran McLaughlin, John Parisella, Rudy Rodriguez, and Steve Klesaris. He was a foreman for Pletcher before he was given the chance to ride for him. Among the horses he galloped were Grade 1 winners Stay Thirsty, Mshawish, Jack Milton, Outwork, and Photo Call. He still gets on a horse or two at Belmont for Pletcher each morning, most notably Toni Tools, who is 3 for 3 since being transferred to Pletcher’s barn.

One of Arriaga’s other owners is Martin Bravo. On Thursday, Arriaga runs Bert’s Posse for Bravo in the ninth race, a $20,000 claiming race at six furlongs. Bert’s Posse has yet to beat a horse in his first three starts, only one of which was for Arriaga, who said the gelding bled in that Jan. 5 start.

On Thursday, Arriaga is taking the blinkers off, shortening up Bert’s Posse to six furlongs, and putting 10-pound apprentice Hector Diaz aboard. Arriaga said if the horse doesn’t run well Thursday, he likely will have to take him out of town for future races.

“You got to send them where they can win,” Arriaga said.

Arriaga said he hopes the quality of his stock will continue to improve over time.

“You got to have the horses,” he said. “Even if you know what you’re doing, you cannot achieve anything without the horses.”