It’s 4 o’clock in the morning, and most of Florida is still asleep. But Palm Meadows is alive and bustling in an amazing ballet of equine and human interactions.
In fact, it’s an underappreciated hotbed of daily activity most fans never get to see.
Thoroughbreds are taken from their stalls to go through their daily routines. The coffee is flowing, clockers are watching and the thunderous sounds of hoofbeats and polite human interactions play like music in the air.
Behind the scenes are the grooms.
Francisca Orantes, April’s Groom of the Month from the Jane Cibelli barn, was born and raised in Guatemala. Her family always had a variety of animals, including horses. So, she developed an affinity for horses at a very early age.
When asked about her routine, Francisca described it like this, “I wake up every day at 3:30 a.m. On race days, my workday starts at 4 a.m. and I get home about 5 p.m. That’s 5 days a week. On non-race days, I start at 4 a.m. and I’m finished at about 11:30 a.m. This is seven days a week.”
“For me, the most satisfying part of my job is this – I love working with the horses,” she said. “When I came to this country with my brothers they taught me how to be a hot walker. After a year while working at the Fair Grounds, I decided that I wanted to be a groom. Dallas Keen gave me a break, and I never looked back.”
“I really do love my job, but of course I love it, even more, when my horses win races. I have been blessed this year, I was groom to 7 winners. 6 at Gulfstream Park and 1 at Gulfstream West,” she concluded.
The Florida HBPA is proud to name Francisca Orantes as April Groom of the Month.