Rick Schosberg begins his Mondays at 4:15 a.m., when he arrives at Belmont Park to train his horses and help the nearly 600 back-stretching workers who call the track home to stay safe during the coronavirus era.
The races will finally return to Belmont on Wednesday, but the horse training and care work never stopped, even as the pandemic began closing the state in March.
“It is a whole new world, but I think everyone really showed the incentive to do everything possible to show the powers and the governor’s office that we really take seriously making sure everyone stays healthy as we go about our daily business. “Schosberg, a veteran coach and chairman of the New York Purebred Riders Association safety / kickback committee, said Friday.
“I believe that the backstretch community and all organizations, working together for a single initiative, not only helped us during this, but in the future, they show that we can communicate and can work together on all initiatives to improve our industry. As our governor said, we are not looking to get back to where we were, we are looking to improve. “
So Schosberg gets up early. Mondays are days of distribution of masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment, and Schosberg is part of the group that helps facilitate it. Check the barns around yours and make sure they’re fully stocked for next week.
When you get to your barn, it’s time to check the temperature. In addition to those performed for anyone entering through Door 6, each trainer now has a thermal thermometer and is required to take the temperature of all of his or her work staff. If a stable has 40 horses, there can be eight grooms and eight hot walkers and five exercise riders and an assistant trainer to control, each of whom plays an important role in the daily care of a racehorse, regardless of whether a race to run or not.
“We deal with our business in a new and more creative way,” said Schosberg. “Like when a horse comes back from the track, instead of having three people at the stall, there are two people at the stall. So they get very far apart. … And then the groom will take the horse out to the shed or the washing area the hot walker, so they stay away. And then, during the wash period, there is a great safe distance between the two people while they still keep their face covers on.
“So it’s a little different, it looks a little different, but it’s working.”
Working in the barn can be a dirty job, so washing hands early and often was part of the bride and groom’s daily routine. Now there is even more cleaning: Every morning, from forks and rakes to pens, they are cleaned and cleaned with a bleach product or an isopropyl alcohol wash every morning, Schosberg said.
It took a team effort from NYTHA, the New York Racing Association, the Backstretch Employee Service Team and the New York Racecourse Chaplaincy, led by “heroic” chaplain Humberto Chávez, Schosberg said, to adapt to the new normal, which began with establishing a quarantine facility when COVID-19 began to hit the state. The Belmont kickback community lost one in April when a 63-year-old boyfriend, Martin Zapata, died of complications from the coronavirus.
But Schosberg said health protocols and the use of protective gear have helped make “a big difference” in keeping the community safe, paving the way for Wednesday’s first day of racing.
“I think you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to discover the fact that this works when used correctly,” said Schosberg. “If we’re going to achieve our goal, go back to racing, and hopefully sometime with our owners so we can see their horses and maybe a limited-size crowd sometime in the future, don’t take our foot off the gas. “