Backstretch workers are track’s backbone | Local

Editor’s note: This is the third of a four-part series appearing Sundays on immigrants who are living in the Glens Falls region.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The backstretch at Saratoga Race Course is a sprawl of green barns with lush summer flower planters hanging from eaves, stacked bales of soft, fresh hay, some horses peering from open stable doors and workers grooming, bathing, riding and walking others.

Early in the morning, there is a buzz of activity as the day begins long before spectators place wagers on their favorites or long shots to win, place or show.

And on Wednesday, the 6:30 a.m. air was jacket-cold as the Rev. Humberto Chavez, the track chaplain, delivered his morning devotional over loudspeakers for workers starting their day.

“We are readying for a good work day. They work really hard and this gets them moving, it’s an inspiration,” Chavez said.

About 1,100 workers, many in the U.S. on temporary work visas, live on the backstretch for the summer meet. And some stay a bit longer, working through fall at the Oklahoma Training Track, also at Saratoga.

While it is a transient population, many skilled backstretch workers have been coming to Saratoga for 15 to 20 years, often employed by the same owner or trainer.

Carl Domino, who owns C.J. Domino Horse Racing Stables, talked about Solomon, who has been with him for 17 years.

“He knows there will always be a job for him,” Domino said Wednesday morning.

“And there’s Gerry,” Domino said, waving to a man hot-walking Harry, one of Domino’s 12 horses at the track for this meet. “Gerry’s a hot walker and he’s been with me for 16 years. He got his papers and now he’s an American citizen.”

Nonetheless, if the proposed Republican immigration plan, endorsed by President Donald Trump, passes Congress, these specialized workers may no longer qualify for work…

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