Joe Lucas turned out to be the big winner on the day, but he was just one of the many caretakers who went home with a special pre-holiday bonus on Caretaker Appreciation Day on Tuesday at The Meadows, hosted by the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association.
The second annual event featured a cash prize ranging from $30 to $300 for each winning caretaker, with the prize drawn at random prior to the race. Lucas was the caretaker of Regil Tiger, winner of the 11th race on the card, which had been pre-determined as the featured race, with the winner also earning a commemorative blanket from the MSOA.
The cash prizes were the result of a gift that was first offered last year by an anonymous local horse owner that wanted to recognize a hard-working group of people that rarely receive accolades for their work. This year, that donation increased to $1,000.
"I wish that more people would take time to compensate and thank caretakers for the hard work that they put in every day,” said the owner in a statement along with the anonymously given check.
According to Lucas, "Earlier today when I heard we were going for $300, I thought I have a good driver and good horse so I was hoping for the best. All of us back here really appreciate this, we work hard and it makes it even better that today is such a cold day. That extra bonus made my day a lot better."
Lucas added, "I have been doing this since I was 16. I was out of it for six or seven years and had what everyone in this business calls a real job, and a lot of people really don't realize how fortunate we are to be in this business, doing what we love."
Also coming on board for this year's event was Southern States Feed, which donated $400. Southern States Feed serves the track through its distributor in Eighty Four, Pa., Eighty Four Agway.
According to Southern States, "Along with Agway, we want to thank and congratulate all the hardworking ladies and gentlemen who help keep the horses racing.”
The MSOA also offered a free buffet lunch to all caretakers, served in The Meadows' paddock throughout the afternoon. (MSOA)