Roman Figueroa Settling Into His New Career
The former jockey is having success as a trainer.
By Wyatt Didericksen | August 11, 2017
Los Alamitos Racecourse
Longtime Quarter Horse racing aficionados immediately recognized the name of Roman Figueroa when they saw the entries for last weekend’s racing action at Los Alamitos.
“Fig,” as he’s known at the track, was a top jockey at Los Alamitos in the 1980s and ‘90s, and just a few weeks ago he began training horses at the Orange County oval. Figueroa, the trainer, found immediate success as he saddled Kissed By An Eagle to the fastest qualifying time to the Grade 2, August 20 Golden State Derby.
Involved in the sport for nearly 40 years, Figueroa comes from a racing family. His grandfather operated a ranch, and his father Frank Figueroa was a Quarter Horse jockey dating as far back as 1944 at Rillito Park in Tucson, Arizona. Eventually Frank would end up training racehorses as well, a path very similar to the one his son, Roman, is now traveling.
Raised around race horses, Fig fell in love with the horses at an early age. However, before he picked up the riding gear, he enjoyed five great years competing in team roping, In fact, Figueroa made the National Finals Rodeo for five consecutive years, each with a different roping partner.
Figueroa set out to become a jockey in 1981 thanks to the encouragement Hall of Fame jockey Bobby Adair, who encouraged Fig to take his skills to Los Alamitos. Later that year, Roman would meet one of the most influential figures in American Quarter Horse Racing history, the legendary Blane Schvaneveldt, and the two quickly became friends for life.
Roman would eventually marry Blane’s daughter Brenda in 1986, taking their relationship from friends to family members. Their working relationship was also successful, as Figueroa rode 913 Quarter Horse winners, including 1999 Champion of Champions (G1) winner My Debut for his father-in-law. He also won major races on many of the barn’s stars, such as Templetonian and Dashing Val.
“It would take me a long, long time to list all the things I learned from Blane,” Figueroa said. “I learned a lot of things from Blane while riding for him and working with him in the mornings. His keys to success weren’t luck or magic, he just had a real good eye for a horse.
"He was successful because he never backed down from hard work," he added. "He had the dedication to his owners and himself to come in everyday and prove he was the best, the first one at the track and the last one to leave.”
For Roman, the transition from jockey to trainer did not take place overnight. “Fig” He wanted to step into the profession fully confident in himself to be the best he could be. He wasn’t about to do this job half-heartedly. But before he took the big step, it was his wife, Brenda, who ran the family’s stable.
“Brenda did a lot of work after her father passed away,” he said. “She went down to the stables to take care of the horses each morning, all while having kids at the house. She is the reason that we still see the name Schvaneveldt in racing today. Without her hard work and same dedication she learned from her father, I might not be training today.
"My kids also helped me get to where I am today by helping out at home when their mom and I were away with the horses and even coming out to work with the horses," Figueroa added. "Our oldest son, Brayden, has always been interested in training horses and was a huge asset to his mother in carrying out daily tasks at the barns.”
Figueroa is now “all in” as a trainer, and when he was asked what traits he wanted to display the most as a horsemen, his answer came as swiftly as one of his winners on the racetrack.
“Hard work and dedication to each horse,” he said.
And after just 3 starts to his name, he is already enjoying the fruits of his labors thanks to the talented stakes winner Kissed By An Eagle.
“He makes my job very easy,” said Figueroa about his first ever winner.
With other horses in the stable ready to race, we can only wait and see what Fig will do next.
AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHA Racing on Twitter, "like" Q-Racing on Facebook, and visit www.aqha.com/racing.