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Groom of the Month

Claro Quizada has been named the Florida HBPA’s Groom of the Month for September, 2021. Quizada has been a member of the team at Joe Catanese’s barn for nearly half the span of Catanese’s training career.

“I’ve been training for 40 years,” Catanese said. “Back when I was doing everything myself, Claro and his wife worked for another trainer on the backside of the barn. I always told them, ‘Someday you’ll come work for me.’ He’s been working for me for 17 years now.”

After so many years, Quizada has become more than just a member of the crew to his boss.

“His whole family has worked for me – his brothers, he and his wife, his nephew,” Catanese said. “We’re family, and racing is our life. If I ever hit Powerball, I’d buy him a big home in Hollywood.”

Why is Quizada deserving of recognition?

“He gets here at 4 a.m. every morning, like clockwork, and he just knows what to do,” Catanese said. “Whatever you need, he’s there to give you a hand. He is knowledgeable, and he has a great temperament for working with the horses, he’s very kind. He’s very quiet, very humble, and a family man for sure.

“He is more than worthy of this award.”

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!

Trainer Georgina Baxter decided to nominate Rene Reyes for the Florida HBPA’s Groom of the Month Award because, she said, “He is simply one of the best grooms on the backside. He takes care of all my good horses. You don’t have to ask him to do anything, he knows what to do and he does it. Anyone who works with him wants to have him in their barn. He’s amazing.”

Originally from Guatemala, Reyes has been with the Baxter stable for more than three years. Among his charges have been Lady’s Island, winner of the 2019 and 2020 GIII Sugar Swirl S., and Gulfstream track-record holder and multiple stakes winner Pay Any Price.

Reyes is especially good with the Thoroughbreds who need that extra little bit of TLC.

“He’s really kind, he loves his horses,” Baxter said. “He’s great with problem horses, with any horse that needs extra patience.”

Reyes, who took a rare vacation this summer, is dedicated to his craft.

“He takes so much pride in looking after his horses,” Baxter said. “He does a great job, everything is immaculate.”

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!

Originally from Guatemala, Neftaly Payeras had no experience with horses when he came to the U.S. But family members opened the door to the racetrack, and paved the way to a career that Payeras now loves. He is honored as the Florida HBPA’s Groom of the Month for June.

“When I first came to the U.S., I was living in California, and I had nothing to do with the horses,” he recalled. “But my brothers were working at the track in New York for D. Wayne Lukas and they got me a job with them. Right away, I knew this was where I wanted to be.”

For Payeras, “It is all about the horse. I love taking care of the horses, getting to know them, making them better, making sure they are sound and happy.”

It was his dedication that inspired his boss, trainer Carlos David, to nominate him for the award. David first met Payeras when working as an exercise rider for Hall of Famer Lukas in 2004. Fast forward 17 years, and the two found themselves under the same shedrow once again, after David took over as the assistant to trainer Jason Servis. The story took a bad turn last year.

Last year’s indictments of 27 individuals, including Servis, not only damaged the sport of horse racing, they also had immediate consequences for the many blameless people who worked for them. Dozens of backstretch workers found themselves out of work and scrambling for jobs in the wake of that news. David and Payeras went their separate ways.

But the separation didn’t last long. Not only Payeras, but many of his former co-workers came calling when David went out on his own.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen when we all lost our jobs,” David said. “I was trying to build a stable, and the grooms all went to work for other trainers. But they didn’t feel at home. We always got along, and when I started training, they came and asked me for jobs.”

He added, “I’m really grateful to have a team like this. They are the best.”

What makes Payeras special?

“He just cares so much, he treats the horses like they are his own; he goes beyond what I ask him to do, because he loves the horses,” David said, adding, “Most of my guys are qualified to be foremen, and I have offered them the chance to have that job, but they turn me down. They want to care for the horses, hands on, and they feel such pride when one of their horses wins.”

Payeras couldn’t agree more. “Every time we win a race, I’m so happy and excited, and I’m giving my thanks to God.”

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!

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