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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By NYRA Press Staff — The New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA) are saddened by the passing of Martin Zapata, who succumbed on Tuesday from complications of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The 63-year-old Zapata, a native of Panama, had spent the past two years working as a groom for trainer Tom Morley in New York.

“Martin was a beloved member of our team for the past two years who always greeted you at the door with a huge smile. He’ll be sorely missed by all those in the New York racing community and further afield as well as his family in Panama,” said Morley.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our community. Martin was a well-regarded horseman who always demonstrated great care and joy in his work. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends,” said NYTHA President Joe Appelbaum.

Zapata, who lived and worked at Belmont Park, tested positive for COVID-19 on March 24 and was subsequently hospitalized on March 26, where he passed.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to those closest to Martin at this difficult time,” said Humberto Chavez, who heads the New York division of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America (RTCA-NY). “The racetrack community here in New York is one big family and it is in times like these that we must reach out and support one another.”

“NYTHA, NYRA, BEST, RTCA-NY and all of us individually are here to support the Zapata family, his co-workers and friends,” said Appelbaum.  “A celebration of life will be held in his honor once restrictions on social gatherings are removed.”

“We at NYRA offer our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Martin Zapata, a beloved member of our New York racing community and a respected horseman,” said NYRA CEO and president David O’Rourke in a statement. “During these troubling times, we stand together with our colleagues at NYTHA, B.E.S.T, Belmont Child Care Association, and the New York Race Track Chaplaincy to offer comfort for all who are mourning Martin and to continue to support the ongoing needs of the backstretch community.”

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