By John Pricci and Mark Berner —
Carmen Barrera, for whom there will be a memorial service on Monday in Saratoga and Tuesday on Long Island, died her sleep last Thursday. Her passing sent a thunderbolt of hurt throughout New York racing to anyone who knew her.
And everyone knew Carmen Barrera.
Mark Berner and I are turf writers and handicapping analysts, not horsemen, but there wasn’t a time that either of us can recall when exchanging greetings with Carmen wasn’t the equivalent of an emotional embrace.
Carmen was a warm, sweet soul—and very good at her job. One doesn’t work anywhere for 41 years without being good at what they do. And that, too, was Carmen.
Carmen’s dad Luis was a humble man and a good enough horseman to win the Belmont Stakes with Summing, ridden by another born racetracker, George Martens. An aside:
Summing was a press box favorite and everyone got excited when he carried Martens up the fence and into the lead to stay.
Everyone loved Georgie, liked Carmen’s dad, and her uncle, Laz. Turf writers are born suckers for racetrack-family stories.
Pleasant Colony may have been seeking his place in racing history but that renewal was special because lil’ Georgie grew up in the press box.
George’s dad “Buddy” was a jockey, served in the military, returned and exercised Tom Fool among other Greentree cracks, moonlighting afternoons operating the stewards’ elevator.
Whenever school was out, George was in the press box. Now it’s 1981 and Carmen already had been working on the racetrack for three years; 1978, the year her uncle won the Triple Crown with Affirmed.
“George Martens rode a great race,” Carmen recalled last year, remembering the year Summing foiled the bid of an aspiring Triple Crown champion.
And now it’s August 8, 2019 and NYRA employees gathered in the Saratoga winners circle after the day’s second race for a moment of silent remembrance.
I was trackside at Saratoga Friday morning and, quite literally, she was the first thing on the lips of anyone I hadn’t seen since the Belmont, or the most recent Saratoga, or the Belmont before that.
There were no words, only shaking heads, faces tinged with sadness. New York racing had just lost a close member of the family.
“She was the heart and soul of the race office,” said NYRA Board member Michael Dubb to Bloodhorse.
“She was the bedrock. She was always pleasant, she always smiled, she was one of those people no one could ever say a bad word.”
And so to say that Carmen Barrera will be missed would be redundant. HRI extends its condolences to Carmen’s family; both of them.
© HorseRaceInsider.com, All Rights Reserved, 2019