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Herrick leads Racetrack Chaplaincy’s annual backstretch barbecue at Del Mar
Friday, August 30th, 2013
Issue 35, Volume 17.
"It went really good," Herrick said.
Approximately 600 backstretch workers and their families attended the barbecue. The festivities also included a performance by Hispanic singer Pedro Rivera.
"He was a very good singer and a dynamic speaker. He had everybody’s attention," Herrick said.
Herrick’s own two children helped chop the carne asada, as did retired jockey and current exercise rider Octavio Vergara.
"There was no shortage of workers," Herrick said.
Five barbecues were used to feed the backstretch workers and their families.
"We were able to keep up with the chicken and the carne asada," Herrick said.
Herrick added that the backstretch workers were also served rice and beans, and fresh salsa was available.
Jockey Gary Stevens operated one of the barbecues.
"He did a great job," Herrick said. "Instead of using the hot box to lose weight I think he was using the barbecue."
The activities also included human races on the track’s turf course, including a one-mile run and a 200-yard sprint.
"They just go out and have a great time every year," Herrick said of the backstretch workers.
Since the barbecue was held at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, permission of general manager Joe Harper was needed. Herrick explained the purpose of the barbecue to Harper.
"He said: ‘What else do you need?’," Herrick said of Harper’s response.
Last year Racetrack Chaplaincy and the Winner’s Foundation, which provides confidential counseling for gambling and substance abuse, initiated a golf tournament whose proceeds are split between the two groups. This year’s golf tournament took place August 12 at the Lomas Santa Fe Country Club.
"We werevery active for two days," Herrick said. "We did two big events back to back. It was brutal."
The proceeds made the golf tournament work worthwhile in Herrick’s opinion.
"It was great. We needed funds to keep these two racetrack programs going," he said.
Herrick took over as the president of the Racetrack Chaplaincy of Southern California last year after Denise Mitchell resigned due to her husband’s health. He had previously served as president, and this is his second tenure on the Racetrack Chaplaincy board.
Herrick founded the annual barbecue in 1999.
"I just felt real sorry for the backstretch workers," he said.
Herrick noted that backstretch workers have long hours at the track and are separated from their families at times of the day many families are together.
"I think the racetrack families enjoy it a lot," he said of the barbecue.
The barbecue had about 80 attendees the first year. Attendance doubled to approximately 160 the following year and exceeded 250 on the third occasion. "Sometimes it seems to be quite miraculous that we pull it off," Herrick said.
"It’s just been a real blessing to the backstretch workers at Del Mar," Herrick said. "They really look forward to it."
Attendance has reached as high as about 800.
"When all the stalls were full at Del Mar we had more grooms there," Herrick said.
The drop from peak participation is thus due to a lessened need for backstretch workers rather than to reduced support of the barbecue.
"There’s just not as many horses on the backstretch at Del Mar," Herrick said.
The backstretch workers at San Luis Rey Downs have been finding work at Del Mar, Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Galway Downs, and other facilities.
"They spread out all over," Herrick said. "Some of them, they’re just waiting for San Luis Rey Downs to open back up again."
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