Originally from Guatemala, Neftaly Payeras had no experience with horses when he came to the U.S. But family members opened the door to the racetrack, and paved the way to a career that Payeras now loves. He is honored as the Florida HBPA’s Groom of the Month for June.
“When I first came to the U.S., I was living in California, and I had nothing to do with the horses,” he recalled. “But my brothers were working at the track in New York for D. Wayne Lukas and they got me a job with them. Right away, I knew this was where I wanted to be.”
For Payeras, “It is all about the horse. I love taking care of the horses, getting to know them, making them better, making sure they are sound and happy.”
It was his dedication that inspired his boss, trainer Carlos David, to nominate him for the award. David first met Payeras when working as an exercise rider for Hall of Famer Lukas in 2004. Fast forward 17 years, and the two found themselves under the same shedrow once again, after David took over as the assistant to trainer Jason Servis. The story took a bad turn last year.
Last year’s indictments of 27 individuals, including Servis, not only damaged the sport of horse racing, they also had immediate consequences for the many blameless people who worked for them. Dozens of backstretch workers found themselves out of work and scrambling for jobs in the wake of that news. David and Payeras went their separate ways.
But the separation didn’t last long. Not only Payeras, but many of his former co-workers came calling when David went out on his own.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen when we all lost our jobs,” David said. “I was trying to build a stable, and the grooms all went to work for other trainers. But they didn’t feel at home. We always got along, and when I started training, they came and asked me for jobs.”
He added, “I’m really grateful to have a team like this. They are the best.”
What makes Payeras special?
“He just cares so much, he treats the horses like they are his own; he goes beyond what I ask him to do, because he loves the horses,” David said, adding, “Most of my guys are qualified to be foremen, and I have offered them the chance to have that job, but they turn me down. They want to care for the horses, hands on, and they feel such pride when one of their horses wins.”
Payeras couldn’t agree more. “Every time we win a race, I’m so happy and excited, and I’m giving my thanks to God.”
As we do every month, the FHBPA encourages all trainers to nominate individuals from their respective barns for future Groom of the Month consideration. Stop by the FHBPA Office to nominate someone from your team today!