Aparicio Rides First U.S. Winner

Panama native scored two wins July 17 at Ellis Park, his first U.S. victories.

Arturo Aparicio, an 18-year-old apprentice from Panama, landed his first and second wins in the United States July 17 at Ellis Park

Aparicio was aboard Emeterio Rodriguez's first-time starter National Girl ($64.20), who defeated heavily favored Pinky Promise by a neck in the first race; and Knee Pads ($26) was moved up to victory three races later upon the disqualification of Alibythee from first to fifth for interference.

"It was very emotional," Aparicio said of his breakthrough wins as his agent, former jockey Julio Espinoza, translated. "I celebrated after the wire like I was winning the Kentucky Derby. I know I shouldn't have done that, but I did. I knew I had a winner, and one jump after the wire I had to celebrate. But I won't do that anymore." 

Alibythee finished a head in front of the Allied Racing Stable's pacesetting Knee Pads, who blew the turn and still nearly hit the wire first despite drifting toward the middle of the track in the stretch. 

Of winning on the DQ, the jockey said, "I hated to see that for the other horse, but I was happy to win. I probably should have won anyway, but he was trying to 'get out' really bad."

Aparicio rode briefly at Gulfstream Park before coming to Kentucky.

 "I'd never been to the United States before, but I'm excited about working hard and trying to get somewhere," he said. "Everything is more organized in the United States. In Panama, people are too laid back, they don't care. In America, if a guy tells you he's working a horse at a certain time, that's when he works. Traffic is more organized here, too."

Espinoza volunteers that "traffic in Panama is worse than in New York City, believe it or not. You have to travel at night or early in the morning, otherwise it might take you three hours to go three miles."

Aparicio at age 15 went to Panama's famed Laffit Pincay Jr. Technical Jockey Training Academy at Panama City's Presidente Remon racetrack, the country's only racetrack. The rider, however, is from a region with jungles on one side and the coast on the other, an area which also produced prominent New York rider Luis Saez. While the racetrack is hours away, kids grow up riding horses.

"You use horses like you use a car here," said Aparicio, from a family of farmers. "You develop that passion for horses. My dad had me riding horses at 6. They use horses for everything; they go alongside oxen. The father gets the saddle and the kids ride bareback."

Espinoza praises Aparicio's work ethic. The young jockey said one motivation is to get to where he can bring his parents to the United States.