Friday morning, we saw the sunrise from the Churchill Downs’ backside where we watched the first training session of the day. After training, we toured some of the barns courtesy of trainers Ron MoQuett and Steve Margolis. Both men held Q & A sessions for our group, and we got to meet some of their horses: Steely Danza, Eskenforit, Templet, and Whitmore. I had a good conversation with Steve Margolis about how to get a start as a trainer and what his advice would be if he were in my situation. The opportunity to get firsthand advice in a one-on-one situation was invaluable. During our barn visits, we met Joe Kristufek, track racing analyst, who also is a horse owner. He spoke briefly about his job duties and the owner experience before heading off to check on his horses.
After our time with the trainers, we met Sherry Stanley director of the Backside Learning Center, a non-profit dedicated to helping the backstretch workers and their families. The assistance offered can be as simple as helping children with schoolwork or teaching the workers and their family members English. Programs to support backside workers are a topic that we discuss in multiple classes such as ACBS 342–Organization & Administration of the Racing Department and ACBS 441–Race Track Organization, Structure and Financial Management. Backstretch workers are a vital part of racing operations and benevolent programs are very important. While we learn in the classroom about how organizations like NYRA offer services such as health and wellness and day care, it is difficult to understand the need for these services until you see it in person. The Backside Learning Center means the world to the many track workers and their families. We finished our tour of the backside with a visit from the man in charge of maintaining the track surfaces, Jamie Richardson. He discussed the meticulous and painstaking process of maintaining the track surfaces for racing, and how he and his team ensure both the dirt and turf courses are safe for racing. In ACBS 441–Race Track Organization, Structure and Financial Management, we discuss the role of the track superintendent as well as types of track surfaces and mixtures. However, hearing Jamie talk about his duties offered a completely new insight into the importance of his work in relation to the race track’s function.