by Karen Johnson
Jockey agent Randy Romero is hoping he’s found another Fernando Jara in apprentice Aldo Arboleda, who joined the New York jockey colony Sept. 15.
Like Jara, Arboleda is a native of Panama and won 58 races in his home country before coming to the United States, Romero said Sept. 20. He added the 20-year-old won three races over the summer, two of them at Arlington Park. He is named on one horse at Belmont Park Sept. 21 and two others the following day. In his first race at Belmont Park Sept. 15, he was unplaced.
Romero, who rode more than 4,000 winners during his illustrious career, said Arboleda – who currently rides with a five-pound weight allowance – would hang his tack in New York this winter.
“(Jockey) Carlos Silva was scouting (riders) for me in Panama,” Romero said. “He told me that Aldo was extra good and was willing to make the commitment to come here. He is a first-class kid with an incredibly smooth, smooth riding style.”
Romero, who suffers from liver and kidney disease, suffered a blow Dec. 17, when Jara obtained an early release from his contract with the agent. Last year, the two were a team through a brilliant season that saw the rider’s mounts – most obtained from trainer Kieran McLaughlin – earn $8.6 million in major stakes races across the country. Jara won the 2006 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) aboard Jazil and the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Classic with Invasor.
Jara began to seek release from his contract with Romero in mid-November, when he decided to hire Gatewood Bell, son of Darley USA President Jimmy Bell, as his agent. The jockey paid Romero $15,000 to be released from the remaining months of the one-year contract Romero purchased from agent Jose Rivera for the same amount in February 2006.
Bell managed Jara’s business in Florida over the winter and at Keeneland during the spring meet. He soon parted ways with the jockey, however, who returned to New York and obtained the services of Roger Sutton for Saratoga’s summer season.
Romero said he has no hard feelings toward Jara, whose business slumped terribly this year (36 wins and a 9% win rate). The 19-year-old jockey left New York in August with plans to ride in California at the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meet opening Sept. 26.
“I did well with Jara, but now I’m just moving on, and hopefully have found myself something better,” Romero said.
Romero, 49, was among the finalists for outstanding jockey in this year’s Hall of Fame balloting. The vote ultimately went to Jose Santos.