Jockey Arroyo Experiencing Ups and Downs

Rider has won two meet titles on Kentucky circuit but has been suspended five times.

Since returning to the saddle last fall after a lengthy absence, jockey Norberto Arroyo Jr. has had his ups and downs while riding on the Kentucky circuit.

Arroyo, a native of Puerto Rico, was based in New York before being sentenced to 30 months in prison following a drug conviction. According to police reports, 11.9 grams of cocaine were found in Arroyo's sock during an Aug. 16, 2009, traffic stop in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

The jockey, whose mounts have earned in excess of $39 million, was released from prison last year after serving one year of his sentence.

Granted a conditional license by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, Arroyo resumed his career during the December meet at Turfway Park and reached the 1,000-win milestone at that track aboard Mac the Man Dec. 8. He was leading rider at that meet and then continued his success by being the leading jockey at Turfway's winter meet to begin 2013.

Along with his success, however, Arroyo has drawn the attention of regulators and his aggressive riding style has resulted in five three-day suspensions for careless riding since the beginning of the year. The first suspension came Jan. 13 and was followed by suspensions meted out by stewards March 23, April 19, May 11, and May 27. In addition, Arroyo was fined $100 for failing to fulfill his riding engagement in the second race at Turfway Park Feb. 23.

Arroyo's suspensions drew the attention of KHRC chairman Robert Beck, who questioned acting chief steward Barbara Borden about the incidents. Borden explained that stewards were aware of how many times Arroyo had been suspended and had discussed the situation with the rider.

Nelson Arroyo, a former jockey who is agent for his brother, Norberto, said the large number of suspensions are due to his brother's agressive riding style, which is more commonplace in New York than in other jurisdictions such as Kentucky.

"It is a very different style of riding. He learned from Angel Cordero, who was a technical and aggressive jockey," said Nelson Arroyo. "A jockey does not always get on the best horse, but he is on the second-, third-, or fourth-best horse in a race and you have to beat the best horse in the race. There are certain ways you can beat that horse by being aggressive. And that is what he is doing here. The different styles basically shocked most of the (Kentucky) stewards, fans, and other jockeys themselves."

For example, Nelson said when his brother is on a horse on the lead and at the rail coming into the stretch, he, as do other jockeys in New York, will take the horse slightly out to allow the horse to switch leads comfortably without being too close to the rail, and then resume his position on the rail.

At times, when this happens a jockey on a horse closest to Norberto's mount will attempt to go through on the inside. In at least one instance that resulted in a suspension for Norberto, the other jockey checked his mount because he felt he was going to collide with Norberto's.

"A lot of the jockeys were trying to go through on the rail and that's a no-no," Nelson said. "He will never let anybody go through him on the rail. That's his mentality. When we spoke to Barbara, she said the stewards understand and that, in fact, they like his aggressive style of riding. They like that he is trying to do the best that he can. But that there is a fine line and they are trying to make him understand that they don't want him to hurt another jockey in the race because the way that he does the move, he does it so aggressively it looks like he is going to go past that point where you are supposed to stop."

Although Norberto has had five suspensions this year, Nelson said stewards indicated they would not increase the number of days for any future suspensions based on the number of incidents so far. Instead, Nelson said, stewards said the length of any riding suspension in Kentucky is based on the severity of the incident in question and not the past record of the jockey.