The thousands of backstretch workers, from hot walkers to grooms to exercise riders, have long lacked the appropriate credit for the work that they do seven days a week, 365 days a year. According to the Thoroughbred Racing Commentary, backstretch workers also lack a unified national body which can advocate on their behalf.
“The sorts of help and services available to them is noticeably hit and miss, differing state-by-state and track-by-track,” writes Daniel Ross. “The peculiar demands of the job mean the vast majority of backstretch workers live on-track – part of a community oftentimes hermetically sealed from the outside world, where the living standards can be shabbier than those of the animals in their care.”
While organizations like BEST in New York, the Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs, and the Jockey Club's Safety Net program acknowledge and assist with the needs of these workers, they cannot advocate for things like improved living conditions. The racetrack living areas have come under fire at tracks like Santa Anita, which, although up to legal standards, is still ranked among the worst by traveling grooms.
Read more at the Thoroughbred Racing Commentary.
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