By Dick Jerardi
In just his second full year as a jockey, Josue Arce won a Grade I stake. Just a few months into his second full year as a trainer, Arce has won his first stakes with his 266th starter. So which was better? Winning the 2006 Grade I Princess Rooney with Malibu Mint or Saturday’s $75,000 Not For Love at Laurel Park with Breezy Gust? “As a trainer, by far, not even close,’’ Arce said. “I used to lose so much weight when riding. I couldn’t wait to get back home and eat. Now, I can watch from the grandstand and take it all in.”
Arce won 393 times as a jockey over 15 years, but there you just show up in the morning to gallop or breeze a horse and then ride in the afternoon. Training is all day, every day. “You’re around them the whole day, like one of your kids,” Arce said.
Arce claimed Breezy Gust for $15,000 on June 1, 2022. The now 6-year-old Pennsylvania bred gelding has won $155,640 since the claim. And Arce is not just getting the 10 percent trainer’s share. Breezy Gust is owned by Arce’s Trending Stable. So he is getting all of the proceeds, less the 10 percent that goes to the jockey. In the last seven starts, that would be Dexter Haddock.
Haddock and Arce have been having regular discussions about how best to ride Breezy Gust. Back in 2021, Breezy Gust won three straight races by a combined 18 lengths before finishing a close third in the Paige McKenney at Parx. The horse was winning on the lead then. “I wanted to see the horse running from off the pace,” Arce said. “That was my fight with Dexter all the time.”
The tactics worked perfectly at Laurel. Breezy Gust was fifth early in the 6-furlong race, moved up gradually, and won by a convincing 1 1/4 lengths. “I said, Dexter, you got the outside post, the favorite ( Grade III General George winner and $1 million earner Eastern Bay) is inside you, just keep him in there, you have the same running style,” Arce said.
It worked out just like the jockey turned trainer envisioned, with Breezy Gust always to the outside of Eastern Bay who never really looked comfortable and checked in third.
Two races after the claim, Arce put blinkers on Breezy Gust. The horse promptly lost five consecutive races after having won right off the claim and finishing a solid third in the Banjo Picker Sprint. “I tried the blinkers and I don’t think that helped,” Arce said. “I was wrong about that because he looks around a lot, I thought it was going to help him. But I was wrong and took them off him.”
The blinkers came off on January 17, and Breezy Gust has come all the way back to that 2021 form, with a win, a second and now the stakes win with Beyers of 90, 90 and 94 in three starts. “I was just thinking he’s a Pa. bred with some back class,” Arce said as to why he made the claim. If it went bad, Arce figured, as a Pa. bred, you could always get the money back by dropping the horse if necessary. “The upside is if you can work with the horse and get him back to his form, then you have a nice horse,” Arce said.
He not only has a nice horse; he has a stakes winner.
So what was that stakes-winning moment like? “Unbelievable,” Arce said. “I was jumping up and down. I was thrilled, I cried, everything went through my mind.”
Arce has 11 horses in the stable at the moment and he owns almost all of them, including Breezy Gust who has earned 10 times the claim price. And counting.