The Inaugural El Mejor Awards for backstretch workers

September 22, 2021

Past the Wire plans to host and help launch the inaugural El Mejor Awards for backstretch workers

We all know how vital the backstretch workers are for the horses and for the sport. They work as hard as anyone in the game and also under dangerous conditions at times. While we all realize this as an industry we fall short in recognizing it at least publicly, often enough and in the media. Hopefully the El Mejor Awards can help change that.

Frankly I have never understood why the Eclipse Awards never expanded their categories to include backstretch workers. I tried to voice that many times over the years to anyone who’d Listen. Nobody did. That is part of the reason when approached by Michael Northcutt about hosting and helping quarterback his brainchild, the El Mejor Awards I was immediately interested. Barn foremen, grooms, and hot walkers and even the track kitchens help and are essential in keeping our sport going. We have awards for everyone and everything except these hard working contributors to the game we love.

We feel this is long overdue in US racing and we hope the industry embraces it and more importantly supports it.

Following is a link to the original release announcing the awards and judges.

Read El Mejor Awards Press Release Here

Simplicity can be the essence of intelligence so we decided to keep things as simple as possible. We encourage all trainers with employees they feel are deserving to nominate them by putting their name and a brief explanation on why they deserve the award in their respective category into the comments section of this article. They will all be read by the Judges who will each pick up to three finalists. They will then utilize a point system to select the winner. We have added the category of Outstanding Excercise Rider for a total of five categories. Once again they are as follows:

Outstanding Barn Foreman

Outstanding Groom

Outstanding Hot Walker

Outstanding Excercise Rider

Outstanding Track Kitchen and Staff

We hope to have a sponsor for each category willing to pay each winner $500 directly. It will be the winners responsibility to provide the award sponsor any required information for payment of the award. Anyone interested in sponsoring an award please get in contact with us as soon as possible.

The winners will be announced Thanksgiving week.

We encourage everyone in the industry to share this article and nominate someone deserving or suggest it to someone who may know of a good candidate. Let’s all work together and make something good happen for all these workers who truly deserve it.

Anyone who knows a good candidate and follows the simple instructions can nominate someone or a track kitchen!

Simply put the persons name and where and who they work for in the comments section below along with why you think they deserve to win. Our Judges will do the rest. Do the same for any track kitchen.


Karl Broberg

Mark Hennig

Ashley Mailloux

Jose Santos Jr.

Ellis Starr

Let’s try and get a lot of nominations, a lot of sponsors and participation and a lot of well deserved and earned traction for our backstretch workers! Together we can do it!

Photo: Past the Wire, Courtney Snow

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  1. Toby Hall Sep 22, 2021 at 4:06 pm

    While we know and believe the obvious ones whom we suspect and respect are gonna be in the mix, the Browns stable, the Pletcher’s stable, the Asmussen stable etc. There is one well known and respected stable I think is deserving of one if not a few more awards and that is the Jorge Abreu stable! I know of two(2) particular people I think should be deserving of an award. The hot walker who walked Call Sign Charlie around in circles for 15-20mins in a terential down pour to keep the horse calm after having been scratched weeks b4 when she fell over while being saddled! Last but not least is the lead pony’s rider for staying out there in the pouring rain that same day to help keep the horse calm! I know this because I was out there waiting for my horse to run. Yes C-S-C is an investment of mine! That’s what I call “DEDICATION”!

    1. Jonathan Stettin Sep 22, 2021 at 5:10 pm

      We appreciate your comments and we’d suggest contacting the barn directly perhaps through the racing office to suggest nominating them. We’d accept from you if you know the names and info on the potential nominees. We hope you follow through and thank you again.

  2. Kim Arco Sep 23, 2021 at 11:25 am

    I would like to make a nomination for best groom. Francisco Garcia who works for Gustavo Delgado at Gulfstream Park. The list of great professional qualities he has is endless. He always knows what’s going on with his horses fitness, general health, personalities, and so on. He can turn any horse around and make it happy and win. Ask anybody. The trainer he works for can give him a horse that hasn’t been winning at all, has a bad leg, and other problems and he can work on it, so it turns around and wins two races in a row! Every horse he works with, weather it is “clean legged” or not. The horses like him, he has good hands for them. He is a very charismatic and outgoing person and always puts in 110%. Other grooms go to him and ask him for advice about their horses. He cleans his horses immaculately, they all have dapples and perfectly pulled manes. This summer meet alone, he has won “best turned out groom/horse” award (way) more times than not. His horses usually always finish in the money. He’s caught the attention of the track so much that they just put his picture on the front of Gulfstream Park racing program! This is certainly not just the opinion of one. The list of his good qualities goes on and on.
    Francisco Garcia at Gulfstream Park for “Best Groom” award. Hands Down.

    1. Jonathan Stettin Sep 23, 2021 at 12:16 pm

      Thank you. Nominated!

  3. Marilyn Montavon Oct 7, 2021 at 4:54 am

    AGAIN the pony people are ignored! We seem to be at the bottom of the food chain constantly. Nothing against the track kitchens, but I believe that a good blacksmith is essential to a successful stable. Just my opinion.

    1. Jonathan Stettin Oct 7, 2021 at 8:52 am

      Sincere apologies. We are not ignoring you at all. This is the first one and we are trying to gauge support and enthusiasm which is not what we hoped it to be but also not entirely bad nor will it discourage us from going forward. Next year we hope to add categories.

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