Hall Of Famer Mandella Exudes Pride As 48-Year Employee Felipe Mendoza Wins NTRA-Sponsored ‘Dedication To Racing’ Award
HALL OF FAMER MANDELLA EXUDES PRIDE AS 48-YEAR EMPLOYEE FELIPE MENDOZA WINS NTRA-SPONSORED ‘DEDICATION TO RACING’ AWARD
LONGTIME GROOM HAS CARED FOR MANY STAKES STARS INCLUDING BAD ’N BIG, PHONE TRICK, ROCK HARD TEN, DARE ’N GO, SOUL OF THE MATTER & OTHERS
ARCADIA, Calif. (Oct. 20, 2022)—It’s often said that racing’s grooms, hotwalkers and exercise riders are the unsung heroes of a game that requires its equine athletes be cared for on a 24-7 basis. No one better exemplifies the dedication, work ethic and love of the horse that’s required at all times than Felipe Mendoza, who has worked for some 48 years as a groom for Hall of Fame conditioner Richard Mandella.
So recognized this past Thursday, Oct. 13 at Keeneland Racecourse, Mendoza, 70, was presented with the NTRA-sponsored “Dedication to Racing” Award in a ceremony that was attended by both Mandella and Mendoza and was emceed by Santa Anita’s Frank Mirahmadi.
“It was one of the best days of my life,” said Mandella. “The excitement and the satisfaction for both Felipe and I, it was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. Felipe’s worked for me for 48 years and he’s part of the family. When I was just starting out, he was a hotwalker at that time for a barn that I took over, Braugh Ranches.
“He’s just been a great person, a great employee all these years. He’s there every day, on time and horses love him. He takes good care of them, he just couldn’t be better. I tried to move him up, into an assistant’s job years ago and he gave it try but he asked me to put him back with his horses. That’s were he wanted to be.”
When asked about some of the “big horses” that Mendoza has been entrusted with, Mandella responded. “We’ll go back to the beginning, with my first stakes winner, Bad ’n Big. He had Phone Trick, Rock Hard Ten, Dare and Go, Soul of the Matter and others.”
A native of Jalisco, Mexico, Mendoza came to the United States at age 21 and currently resides in nearby Eagle Rock with his wife Irene. They have two grown children and six grandchildren.
“Yes, I’m very proud to win this award,” said Mendoza Thursday morning at Mandella’s Santa Anita Barn 4. “Working for Mr. Mandella all these years has been a great pleasure. He’s a good man and he’s been a great boss. I love working with the horses and as long as I’m feeling healthy, I want to keep working. I love what I do.”