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Groom of the Month

The FHBPA honors Ramon Circo, part of trainer Kathy Ritvo’s team, with the Groom of the Month Award for May. Originally from Mexico, Circo has worked for the Ritvo barn for more than 15 years.

“He’s been with us a long time and he’s like a member of the family now,” Ritvo said. “He’s very close with my son, Michael.”

One of her most trusted employees, Circo currently cares for stakes horses Frosted Grace, who was runner-up in the Grade 3 Gulfstream Park Sprint Stakes and the Sir Shackleton Stakes in south Florida earlier this year, and most recently travelled to Pimlico to run third in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint MATCH Series Stakes on the Preakness undercard; and Ournationonparade, who captured an allowance race at Gulfstream in March.

Why did Ritvo nominate him for this recognition?

“Ramon is very good. He goes above and beyond for his horses,” she said. “His attention to detail is second to none.”

The FHBPA encourages all trainers to nominate individuals from their respective barns for future Groom of the Month consideration.

The FHBPA is pleased to announce that Sheldon Spencer, from the barn of trainer Monica McGoey, has been selected as the Groom of the Month for April.

Originally from Philadelphia, Spencer was just a kid when he started working with horses in 1978 at the old Keystone Park. He spent some time in West Virginia as well before making his way south to Gulfstream Park. The veteran horseman has worked with young trainer McGoey for five years, and was an easy choice as a candidate for Groom of the Month.

“He’s the first one to the barn every morning and feeds everybody breakfast; he’s there in the afternoon to graze them; he comes back in the evenings and takes them out for walks,” McGoey said. “He gives everything to the horses.”

McGoey noted that Spencer uses a hearing aid, but what some might consider a disability can actually be an asset when working with Thoroughbred racehorses.

“The horses are all really calm with him,” she said. “I give him the horses that are more high-strung, and he settles them right down. He has a way with them.”

That “off button” on the hearing aid can also be a benefit to Spencer when he wants to focus on his horses – or tune out the boss.

“I’ll be talking to him and then realize he isn’t listening,” McGoey said with a laugh. “Spencer just turns it off when he wants to.”

But he always pays close attention to his four-legged charges.

“I love my job,” Spencer said. “I love grooming horses.  I love the way they are always moving forward.”

His favorite right now is the hard-knocking Morning Stride, a 6-year-old who has won seven of his 33 career starts and earned nearly $250,000. What makes this horse special?

“He works hard and stays straight,” Spencer said.

The same could be said of our Groom of the Month.

As we do every month, the FHBPA encourages all trainers to nominate individuals from their respective barns for future Groom of the Month consideration. Stop by the FHBPA Office to nominate someone from your team today!

Adam Coglianese Photos

The FHBPA is pleased to announce that Jesus Tapia, from the barn of Mark Casse, has been selected as the Groom of the Month for March. The 26 year old is a native of Mexico and has employed at the barn for the last 3 years. Jesus is single but does have 2 brothers that also work on the backstretch. According to Nick, the barn manager, Jesus is working 5 of the best horses in the string, is a hard worker and a dedicated team player that comes to work everyday with a great attitude and a big smile. We acknowledge Jesus and all those who toil in the barns day in and day out to help keep the horses happy and healthy. As we do every month, the FHBPA encourages all trainers to nominate individuals from their respective barns for future Groom of the Month consideration.

The FHBPA is pleased to recognize Russty Rendon as the“Groom of the Month” for February 2021. Russty, 37, has worked in the barn of trainer Freddy Velasquez since 2016. He is a native of Puerto Rico, and learned the ropes from his father, a retired/former trainer in PR. According to Freddy, “Russty is exceptionally good with his horses, and currently has 5 in his care. Very dependable and responsible worker, you will find him there rain or shine”. Russty will be presented his award at the races on Friday February 19th.

The FHBPA salutes Russty on his selection and we urge all trainers to nominate their best for consideration in the upcoming months.

As we begin the New Year, the FHBPA is pleased to recognize Oscar Ticun as the Groom of the Month honoree for January. He will be presented with his award on Friday January 22. Oscar first started working with horses about 6 years ago, and the 23 year old native of Guatemala has been a fixture in the barn of trainer Carlos David. It is truly a family affair for Oscar and his sisters and brothers, who all work on the backstretch. Carlos, who was excited for Oscar to be selected, said he is currently working with about 8 horses, and calls him one of the best in the groom business. The FHBPA salutes Oscar Ticun, and all of the hard working backside support that strive to make our racing the best that it can be.

The FHBPA would also like to give a tip of the cap to the 2020 winners.

           Rony Corrales                                      Jose Manuel Parra

           Rodrick Sinkler                                    Jose M. Hernandez

           Roberto Calvo                                     Jorge Diaz

           Orfanel Figueroa                                Angel Aragon

The FHBPA is pleased to have recognized Angel Aragon as September’s Groom of the Month, Angel received his award in a winners circle presentation at Gulfstream Park.

Angel, age 37, came down from the Chicago area about a year ago and joined the barn of Kenny and Cheryl Winebaugh. Kenny says that Angel oversees a string of horses and that his charges always look their best. Congratulations to Angel Aragon.

We remind and encourage all trainers to nominate candidates for future months consideration. The FHBPA salutes all the backstretch personnel that allows our industry to continue to flourish.

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

February 2020

January 2020

December 2019

April 2019

March 2019

February 2019

January 2019

December 2018

November 2018

October 2018

September 2018

(left to right) representing the FHBPA Debbie Filippi and Iris Cotto, Nicolas Francisco, jockey Paco Lopez


August 2018

(left to right) FHBPA Board Member Kathy Davey, Jose M. Hernandez, jockey Leonel Reyes, Jennifer Hayford-Quinonez

July 2018



June 2018

Groom of the month June- Roberto Calvo

May 2018

April 2018

Groom of the month Richard Gonzalez

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

December 2017

November 2017

Groom of the month – Jose Vargas

October 2017

Groom of the month Rene Lopez

September 2017

Jose Manuel Parra

August 2017

July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

Feb 2017 Groom of the month Bladimiro Soto

January 2017

December 2016