NYRA Cares: King, Jr. relishing life and community in horse racing
by NYRA Press Team
One of Eddie King, Jr.’s earliest memories was of his father, Eddie, Sr., an exercise rider at New York thoroughbred tracks, putting him on a pony.
“Growing up, I loved going to work with my dad,” said King, Jr. who at 32 is now an assistant to trainer Mark Hennig, based at Belmont Park. “The track was my playground. I was comfortable and had friends there. And I picked up a lot of knowledge about horses along the way.”
In his early teens, King, Jr. didn’t give much thought to building a career in racing. Then, at 16, he landed a job as a hot walker, which reignited his adolescent interest in horses. And by 18, King’s future was clear: “The track is what I knew and where I wanted to be,” he said.
With the help of a scholarship grant from the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NYTHA), King, Jr. enrolled in the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program; and then the State University of New York at Morrisville, where he earned his degree. Returning to the New York metro area, King, Jr. took a series of positions at the track, moving last November to Hennig’s barn.
“Eddie has been a great addition to our team,” said Hennig. “He picked up the routine and carried the flag for us this winter when our other assistant trainer went to Gulfstream. He’s hard working. And he has ambition and a great future in the sport.”
King, Jr. is among the 590 students to have received a NYTHA scholarship grant which, since 2008, has distributed more than $2 million in grants for scholarships as well as transportation and books to backstretch workers and their immediate dependents. Many grant recipients are the first in their family to attend college.
“Helping backstretch families advance their children’s education is critical to our mission,” said NYTHA President Joe Appelbaum. “The King family and others who earn their living on the backstretch are the foundation of the Thoroughbred industry. Watching our scholarship recipients move into a wide variety of careers is nothing short of inspiring.”
Seated outside Barn 9 on a welcome and warmish early spring afternoon at Belmont Park, King, Jr. took in his surroundings, and said, “This is a community.” He referred to the backstretch and the people who make a living there, while reflecting on how the industry helped two generations of his family build satisfying careers.
“I’d say, 80 percent of the cost of my meals growing up were the result of what my dad brought home,” said King, Jr.. “Horse racing has been a part of my family’s life for as long as I can remember.”
The work never ends. Most days, King, Jr. awakes in his Kew Gardens apartment at 3 a.m. and arrives at the track well before dawn. Off days are rare, and King, Jr. is often at the track through the evening feeding the horses.
‘You have to see how they’re eating,” he said. “The work ethic is something I got from my dad. The learning as well, and I’m still learning from him. But if you love what you do, as I do, it doesn’t feel like a job.”
To learn more about NYTHA and its programs, please visit https://nytha.com/
In the community
B.E.S.T. wins “Social Impact” award
Looking for “the best” of the non-profit sector? Start with B.E.S.T. itself – the Belmont Park-based Backstretch Employee Service Team, which last week earned the 10th annual Long Island Imagine Awards’ “Social Impact Award.”
Presented last Tuesday, this prestigious award honors the best in innovation and leadership in the Long Island, New York non-profit sector. B.E.S.T., which is dedicated to meeting the health and social welfare needs of backstretch workers at NYRA tracks, was chosen from the four finalists – and more than 120 organizations – that competed for the award.
“More than anything, this recognition is a validation that what B.E.S.T. does every day helps the lives of people who work with horses,” said B.E.S.T. Executive Director Paul Ruchames. “This award is for all B.E.S.T. staff and volunteers at Belmont and Saratoga, who work so tirelessly to meet the needs of the track’s unsung heroes, the backstretch workers.”
For the competition, B.E.S.T. submitted a detailed nomination, which was followed by a 90-minute interview. The Imagine Awards judges chose winners based on “measures of success not just by meeting its mission, but by affecting the surrounding community,” In addition, the judges from Cerini & Associates considered how the organization impacted the community as a whole.
The Imagine Awards also presented awards in categories that include Arts & Culture; Innovation; Leadership Excellence; and Rising Star. B.E.S.T. and the other winners earned $5,000 donations.
Based at Belmont Park, B.E.ST. (https://www.bestbackstretch.org/) works with the backstretch workers at the three NYRA tracks, Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course, providing on-site counseling and primary healthcare services, access to health insurance and case management assistance.
A helping hand…
BCCA Spring Fling tickets now available
The Belmont Child Care Association's Spring Fling hat luncheon and fashion presentation will be held Thursday, June 2 at the Garden City Hotel.
The annual event will celebrate 2022 honoree, the Junior League of Long Island; as well as 2021 honorees, Angela M. Jaggar, Ph.D. [Angela and Scott Jaggar Foundation] and Erin King Sweeney [King Sweeney Strategies LLC].
For additional details and to purchase tickets or sponsorships, please visit: https://e.givesmart.com/events/qwu/
Champions Talk: Celebrating The Legacy of D. Wayne Lukas
Champions Talk, a New York Race Track Chaplaincy (NYRTCA) fundraiser also benefitting the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation (TRF) and the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) is set for July 19 from 5-7 p.m. at the 1863 Club at Saratoga Race Course.
The annual event, to be hosted by America's Day at the Races analyst Richard Migliore, celebrates Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas and will feature a round-table discussion with guest panelists Todd Pletcher, Kiaran McLaughlin, Dallas Stewart, and Mark Hennig.
The round-table discussion will take place in the exclusive Founders Room of Club 1863 at Saratoga Race Course. Drinks and appetizers will be served.
To learn more and purchase tickets, please visit https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/MTQ1OTEy.
NYRTCA: Share God's love on Mother's Day
The New York Racetrack Chaplaincy (NYRTCA) is seeking your support to celebrate backstretch moms on Mother's Day by delivering "Baskets of Blessings" to as many of the community as possible on Sunday, May 8.
Each basket will be lovingly prepared and include an assortment of toiletries and special gifts. Each basket will be hand-delivered by the NYRTCA at Belmont Park, Aqueduct Racetrack, and Saratoga Race Course.
To learn more and to sponsor a basket or donate towards a basket, please visit https://www.flipcause.com/secure/cause_pdetails/MT...
About NYRA Cares
The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA), which holds the exclusive franchise to conduct thoroughbred racing at Aqueduct Racetrack, Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course, sponsors its NYRA Cares initiative to support the charitable endeavors of industry-related non-profits, service providers and community groups.
In New York, NYRA has long provided sustaining financial contributions to deepen the impact of the Backstretch Employee Service Team (BEST), the Racetrack Chaplaincy of New York and the Belmont Child Care Association (BCCA).
NYRA Cares partners with national organizations such as the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the American Red Cross, Ronald McDonald House Charities and the Marine Corps Toys for Tots Program among others.
The Belmont Stakes Racing Festival is marked by a number of special events and community partnerships sponsored and supported by NYRA. These include the annual Belmont/Elmont Parade, the jockey visit to the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island and the Belmont Stakes Blue Ribbon Run for Prostate Cancer.
At historic Saratoga Race Course, NYRA Cares’ signature initiative is the Community Outreach Booth, which each season highlights a total of 40 local and industry non-profit organizations by providing them with a unique platform to share information about their work and fundraising initiatives. One non-profit per day of the summer racing season receives the exclusive opportunity to interact with the thousands of guests who visit Saratoga Race Course. The Community Partner of the Day is also featured in the Post Parade racing program and on televisions throughout the venue.
To learn more about NYRA Cares, visit: https://www.nyrainc.com/community.