If success is measured by personal well-being and kindness to others, Fabio Arguello Jr. is a superstar. He also achieved the more traditional definition of success during his jockey career, in which his mounts won 1,251 races and banked more than $23 million from 1990 to 2018. He was a 1991 Eclipse Award finalist for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey and won the 1992 Kentucky Oaks aboard Luv Me Luv Me Not.
Although he has not ridden a race in more than a year, the 46-year-old admits he still has the urge but prefers to help others in business. Arguello serves as agent for apprentice Jairo Rodriguez on the Kentucky-Ohio-Indiana circuit and continues his profession as a financial adviser with clients that include several top jockeys. He extends his economic guidance to other Thoroughbred industry employees through the Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs.
“When I was a young rider, I had bad experiences with people taking advantage of my financial situation because of a lack of speaking the language and not understanding how money works,” he said. “I am very fortunate that I made the time while still riding races to graduate with a bachelor's degree from University of Phoenix in business administration and later obtain my licenses in the financial industry to provide financial security in my life.”
Arguello embraces the challenge of mentoring whether he is coaching Rodriguez into fulfilling his riding potential or directing a person's investments.
“I am very competitive and no matter what I do, I try my hardest,” he said. “I like to help people out especially when they need it the most. All my respect to all the agents for the dedication and hard work they put into getting the best horses for their riders.”
From Colombia to Calder
Arguello's route to personal, statistical and monetary gain began in his native Colombia. His father, an accomplished jockey, dreamed his son would follow in his footsteps. The elder Arguello, who divided his time between the United States and Colombia, moved his 14-year-old son to South Florida, where he held jobs in the barns of Calder Race Course and eventually became an exercise rider. The remainder of the family subsequently made the move to Florida.
At the 1990 Calder summer meeting, Arguello launched his jockey career and recorded three victories by the end of the year. When 1991 drew to a close, Arguello had added another 166 victories and was an Eclipse Award finalist as he gained recognition as a hard-working individual with a likable demeanor.
While honing his skills in the saddle, Arguello also concentrated on gaining command of English.
“It took me many years to really learn the language because I was shy,” he said. “But the hard work studying and dedication really paid off.”
As he seamlessly transitioned from remarkable newcomer to reliable journeyman, Arguello was hailed as a potential Hall of Famer. On track he was revered as a quick study with a natural sense of timing on horseback. Out of the saddle, his cheerful nature made him popular with colleagues. He continued accumulating victories and lucrative purses and had the novel opportunity to ride against his father in several races. The senior Arguello passed away in the spring of 1995.
“He was my mentor, my friend, my hero,” Arguello said. “I sure lost a big part of me. Mentally I was too young to deal with his absence. I was not prepared for anything like that especially at a young age.”
Arguello's 24-year-old son Christian with partner Janet Arguello had ideas of being a jockey himself but that goal was unattainable because of his size. Instead he rerouted his energy into a criminal justice degree from the University of Louisville.
Arguello's good times rolled through the end of 1994 when he suffered knee damage that became part of a series of injuries, returns, slumps and setbacks. Despite his best efforts, Arguello's stats did not rebound to the highpoints of his prime.
The numbers changed but Arguello did not. Youthful and energetic, he mixes the meeting of new people with reminiscing among long time associates. He balances his agent's role with his financial duties that include assisting non-profits with providing financial guidance for all ages.
With his distinguished riding career behind him, Arguello looks ahead to other satisfactions.
“I miss the connection between the jockey and the horse to become a strong, powerful team,” he said. “I miss riding on the turf and using my ability to use my head more than my strength and the adrenaline rush to make split decisions. It is in my blood, but I am truly focused on providing my clients with professional guidance that they deserve. I love to help people.”
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