- Published: Wednesday, 24 November 2021 16:09
Fidelity First Home Mortgage, based in Annapolis, Md., is the initial sponsor for a new groom recognition program that begins Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, at Laurel Park.
The Maryland Jockey Club is partnering with the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association to implement a Best Turned Out Award to honor the unsung heroes of racing. For each race on every live racing day beginning Nov. 25, the groom of the best turned out horse will be awarded a $25 gift card and recognized on television and simulcast broadcasts and by track announcer Dave Rodman. On Thanksgiving Day, winners will be awarded a $100 gift card provided by sponsor Fidelity First.
Dan Eubanks, a longtime Thoroughbred owner in Maryland and President of Fidelity First, said the company was happy to help launch the new program.
“I’ve grown up with horses since I was 10 years old,” said Eubanks, whose mother, Annette, still has a stable at Laurel. “I was offered the opportunity to sponsor a day, and we took it up to $100 per card. Grooms spend more attention to and time with horses than anybody at the racetrack. They clean stalls, brush the horses, and do so many other things. I know grooms who have had serious relationships with horses—they got upset when a horse got claimed.”
Eubanks, who spent a lot of time working with horses growing up both at the racetrack and on the farm, operates Rising Sun Racing Stables as well as overseeing Fidelity First. He still has one of his former racehorses, multiple stakes winner Colonel Sharp, who is enjoying retirement on the farm.
“I try to get to the backstretch at Laurel once or twice a week,” Eubanks said. “It’s important for me to (participate in the recognition program) because it’s about supporting the most important people on the backstretch.”
Judges will examine the presentation and appearance of both horse and groom in the paddock to determine a winner for each race.
"The MTHA is extremely thrilled to partner with the Maryland Jockey Club to recognize and reward the care and devotion regularly given by our horsemen to our equine athletes on a daily basis," MTHA Executive Director David Richardson said. "We are proud to have the finest horsemen in the nation, and we thank Dan for his contributions to the program."
The MJC is in the process of lining up other one-day sponsors for the new groom recognition program. More information will be available as it is confirmed.