My father Gerald E. (Jerry) Taylor is a groom at Bowie racetrack in Bowie, Maryland. He lives on the backside in accommodations provided by the track. He is 71 and has been working on the racetrack since the age of 15. As a young boy, he was placed in an orphanage and never graduated from high school.
Jerry found his calling with horses and the life of a racetracker. He has devoted the last 56 years of his life to the horses and people he has worked with. It is his life and his passion, coming before all else.
My father started at the racetrack rubbing horses for Samuel D. Riddle, the owner-breeder of Man O' War and War Admiral. He spent a brief time with Tom Smith, legendary trainer of Seabiscuit. In the 1950s, he went to work as a groom, rubbing for Jimmy McGee and Larry McFail.
Shortly thereafter, Jerry went to work for trainer Eddie Kelley at Harry Isaac's Brookfield Farm, where he was employed for 10 years, during which time he groomed Champion handicap horse Intent.
Beginning in the 1960s and lasting into the 1980s, Jerry worked in Maryland primarily for Walter Crismer. A groom for most of his career, he did hold a trainer's license in Maryland when working with Mr. Crismer.
Living and working on the backside is a hard life. My father underwent triple bypass surgery in 2000. His recovery has been amazing and he is still able to work as a groom. He currently rubs horses for Ron Plains.
As a child, I remember the 7-day-a-week schedule. I didn't realize until I was older that some parents worked 5 days a week! Our family life was completely centered on the needs and schedules of the horses; it dictated our time together and how we spent it.
Jerry met my mother at Finger Lakes racetrack in New York in 1971. While they were together, she also worked at the track, along with my aunt and uncle. I started working as a hotwalker and groom, sticking with it a few years after I graduated from high school. Thoroughbred racing is in my blood, but as much as I love the sport, my education is my first priority.
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