Pimlico Backstretch Worker Of The Year: ENRIQUE LOPEZ

Mexico native Enrique Lopez began working with horses in Kentucky in 1988 and in 2002 moved to Maryland, where he worked for the late trainer Richard Small for a short time.

The following year he took a job with trainer Ann Merryman and, 14 years later, still works for the Pimlico Race Course-based stable. His dedication to Thoroughbreds and conscientiousness as an employee have earned him the honor of Groom of the Year at Pimlico Race Course for 2017.

Lopez said his father worked for Small, who advised him to move to Maryland from Kentucky. It proved a wise decision that laid the foundation for his career.

“Moving to Maryland allowed me to learn a lot more about horses,” said Lopez, who began working for Merryman and Holly Robinson, in 2003. “I’ve learned a lot from Ann and like working for her because she gives me the liberty to do what I need to do. I’m very happy, excited and thankful (for the recognition). I really don’t have any other words to describe it.”

Lopez, who lives in Maryland save for short trips to Mexico to be with family around the Christmas holiday each year, said his experience working for one stable for a long period of time has been rewarding. Though he has built upon his knowledge and reputation, Robinson indicated he was adept from the start.

“When I trained horses, Enrique was my right arm,” she said.

Merryman recalled a day at Colonial Downs – the Virginia track that raced when Maryland was dark under a cross-state agreement between the racing associations – that showed her Lopez’s value to the stable.

“We were at Colonial Downs years ago with six horses in to race and one other groom there, and I was worried how it would ever work,” Merryman said. “Enrique said, ‘We’re good,’ and we were. All the horses ran without a glitch – it was like nothing for him. “He does everything to perfection, and he has a photographic memory which comes in very handy.”

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