Spurred on by a recent piece penned by Todd Sidor, it occurs to me that the counselor is right; grooms, already likely to be short-changed economically, also are being underappreciated in the credit department, too.
Grooms are the people who live with the Thoroughbred every day, tending to virtually all their needs. When they show up in winners’ circle pictures at the other end of a shank, all but their families have no idea who they are.
Sidor cited an image I noticed while watching the amazing races from Royal Ascot this past June; grooms appearing on the winners’ podium with the owners and trainer, and all had trophies in hand.
Now we’re not suggesting Woodlawn Vase replicas here, just something a bit bigger than a bauble of recognition to bring back and show their families and friends for a job well done.
Dare we suggest a possible backstretch role model?
Everybody wants recognition but some are owed respect due to the uncommon nature of their responsibilities, especially when animals are involved.
In Thoroughbred racing’s case, the care grooms provide add to what corporate types like to refer to as shareholder value. And let’s face it; today’s successful owners are more corporate than mom-and-pops of the past.
Grooms need to be recognized publicly for their diligence, their efforts being as valuable in the development of would-be champions as any Hall of Fame trainer tightening a girth or jockey driving the winner home.
Time is long overdue for the “bench players” to be recognized and be included in post-race televised interviews whereby winning “teams” are credited for the victory.
In the context of sport, bench-playing grooms help produce championships. One never knows what the role player can do until the deed is done.
Sidor cites the Sovereign Awards, Canadian racing’s highest honor,as an example of what American racing can emulate.
Canadian authorities recently created a category to honor the “Outstanding Groom” at their awards ceremony. Wouldn’t it be nice if American racing followed suit, honoring a horse’s closest caretaker?
Sidor even suggested a title: the “Marylou Whitney Backstretch Worker Award of Merit.”
The trophy could go up on the mantel of the Marylou Whitney Pavilion that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised will be erected in time for the 2020 Saratoga race meet.
But all major tracks should consider honoring the least members of any racing team, those who do the most important work; daily hands-on care.
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