When your “office” is a shedrow and you may not even have a bucket for a chair, eating lunch at work is tough. Stopping by a water cooler with a race-ready Thoroughbred in one hand is certainly out of the question.
This afternoon predicament of grooms shipping in with their runners to Gulfstream Park did not escape FHBPA Benevolence Chairman Herb Oster, who noticed scores of hot, hungry and thirsty grooms in the track’s receiving barn sitting on overturned buckets waiting for their horses to either run or load back up on various transports throughout each racing card.
To help clarify what he saw, Oster spoke with a number of trainers, who explained that the afternoon logistics often left many grooms without a hot meal or even a cool drink all day, especially for those tending to horses running in races during the mid-day.
With input from Receiving Barn Manager Eddie Colletti, and consultation with Backstretch Chaplain Tom LaPointe, Oster came up with a framework plan to solve the need, the details of which he hammered out with his FHBPA Board’s Benevolence Committee, which includes Kathy Davey, Adam Lazarus and Teresa Palmer.
“The first month of our ‘Shipper Lunch Voucher’ program is in the books, and it’s been a huge success,” Oster explained. “We served nearly 800 lunches to receiving barn-based grooms during March and, given the great reception we’ve gotten, we plan to continue!”
The lunch voucher program works like this:
If you’re a groom working for a trainer who is shipping in for a particular day’s races, Gulfstream Park’s receiving barn attendants like Cecibel Al-Waked will have a master list with your trainer’s name and his or her horses that are scheduled to be there that day from Calder (Gulfstream Park West), Palm Beach Downs, Palm Meadows or Payson Park.
Show them your stable ID and you’ll receive a voucher worth $5 for use with a special menu from the Track Kitchen (located about 100 yards from the Receiving Barn), where you can pick out your lunch from these and other eligible items:
· Grilled Cheese (Swiss or American)
· Chicken with Rice and Beans (the most popular choice, so far!)
Chaplain Tom and His Place Ministries will provide your included beverage on-site, along with cake or other desserts.
“Importantly, the FHBPA is providing a hot meal for folks who really need it, as well as helping our trainers by ensuring their grooms are taken care of, and feeling just as good as their valuable horses,” Oster said.