Saratoga's backstretch workers get by with a little help from BEST

August 12, 2019 07:16 PM

SARATOGA SPRINGS - It's a quiet August Monday on the backstretch at Saratoga Race Course.

Without racing, many of the 2,000-plus people who work here can focus more on themselves and less on the horses, at least for a few hours.


Gail Hughes planned to relax a little. She deserves it. A hot walker for five years, Hughes has spent the past couple of years battling cancer.

A mammogram at a track in Kentucky showed an irregularity in her left breast. However, they didn't spot it until the native of Trinidad and Tobago had already come north to Saratoga.

"And it just led from one thing to the next," she said Monday morning.

So it was here where - thanks to the Backstretch Employee Service Team, a charity that takes care of the people who take care of the horses, that she was able to get the care she needed. From the on-site medical clinic to off-site appointments, surgery, and support.

"I had them to lean on. I needed somebody to lean on," Hughes said. "And so they were there for me, helping me with my doctor's appointments, helping me find a place to stay after the surgery."

BEST also helps workers with mental health, addiction, and social services needs and say they're able to do it because the Saratoga community embraces their work.

"It's really just a collaboration of an incredible community that makes that happen," said Nancy Underwood, BEST's Saratoga Program Director. "We are the catalyst to make those phone calls and to engage people in the process but really it's everybody coming together."

Coming together for BEST and for Hughes who says she is grateful for the support. "They did a lot for me because when I wasn't even believing in myself, I had them to lean on."

BEST is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a fundraiser Tuesday night at Racing City Co. on Excelsior Avenue in Saratoga Springs. B.E.S.T. Brews begins at 5.

MORE INFORMATION: Backstretch employee service team of NY


Mark Mulholland

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