12/07/2012 4:14PM

Turfway Park notes: Arroyo looks to be on right track


Norberto Arroyo Jr. is making the most of his latest chance. Arroyo, who was awarded a conditional jockey’s license this fall by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, has caught the attention of horsemen at Turfway Park and already is a major contender for the leading-rider title at the holiday meet.

Arroyo had 2 wins and 2 seconds from 5 mounts Thursday night at the northern Kentucky track, leaving him just four shy of the 1,000-win milestone and giving him a 5-for-16 record with his first mounts since August 2009.

More importantly, his life is back on track. He was released last year after serving one year of a 2 1/2-year sentence in a New York prison on drug charges. A native of Puerto Rico, Arroyo has had a mercurial career since he began riding in the United States in 1999, riding for major stables in New York while occasionally finding himself in big trouble, such as when he served 39 days in jail for a 2002 incident for which he was charged with second-degree assault.

“Everything is going in the right direction,” Arroyo, 35, said Friday morning. “I’ve got the tools back after being off over three years. I’m feeling as good as I used to.”

Arroyo said he is committed to ride throughout the winter at Turfway, where racing continues through March 31. In the meantime, he may apply for a license to ride in other jurisdictions, he said, although if he moves to another circuit, it probably would not be until summer.

“I’ve moved my family to Louisville,” he said, referring to his wife, Brenda, and four children (ages 16, 6, 3, and 1). “I’ve heard from some big outfits, but I don’t know what I’m going to do after this winter.”

In the meantime, he is staying clean while taking things one day at a time in the relative obscurity of Turfway, where few of the nation’s major stables race anymore.

“This will continue, God willing,” he said. “It’s not going to be like before where I let myself get into the wrong spots. I’ve got a family that has been there for me. I’m not letting them down. I’m so serious and so focused right now.”

Into Friday action, Arroyo was tied for the lead atop a crowded jockeys’ race with Perry Ouzts (5 for 32) and Rodney Prescott (5 for 30).

“We’ve got a lot of business lined up,” said Scott Ward, who is booking mounts for Arroyo.

Anderson doing nicely

Susan Anderson also got away to a good start at the meet by winning with 3 of her first 5 starters. Success is no stranger to Anderson, who grew up in Cincinnati and trained for several years before moving in the early 1990s to Dubai. She lived there for 7 1/2 years while rising through the ranks as an exercise rider, assistant trainer, and finally as the first female trainer for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum.

“I came back in 2000 and started training here again, and it was quite a culture shock after being around all those great horses for the Maktoum family,” said Anderson, 40.

Anderson currently oversees a 15-horse stable at Turfway and has won 15 races this year, a career high. At the Churchill Downs meet in November, she won with a maiden named Picture Me Mad, while at Turfway, her wins have come from Sok Sok, Wonka, and Tobes the Man.

“I grew up next to fox trails and riding hunters and show jumpers, but then I got into racing when I was 15,” said Anderson, who owns and operates 40-acre Point of View Farm near Milford, Ohio.

** The Prairie Bayou, the second of three $50,000 stakes at the holiday meet, will be run next Saturday, Dec. 15. Nominations for the 1  1/16-mile race were to be released this weekend. The final stakes of the meet, which runs through Dec.  31, is the six-furlong Holiday Cheer on Dec. 29. The winter-spring meet runs Jan. 1 to March 31.