- 15 Feb
Donna O’Connor has worked on the backstretch at Laurel Park for 15 years and she has seen a lot of things, but when the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association started holding open forums with the backstretch community last summer and then actually followed up on things that were discussed she was almost speechless.
“I’ve lived here for a long time,” O’Connor says. “There have been years when you feel you don’t matter. I’ve had a long-standing issue with people smoking in the barns. I think it is ludicrous to be smoking in a barn and I’ve tried for years to get it addressed, but nothing ever got done.
“Then, last summer, they started holding these meetings. I went and the first time I brought it up, one of the security guards stepped up and said, ‘I’m going to take care of it.’ The next day in our barn those people [smoking] got written up. That guard was a man of his word and we don’t have a smoking problem anymore.
“I feel they really listen and even if you bring up things that can’t be or haven’t been done yet, it just feels good to get it off your chest. David [MTHA Executive Director David Richardson] said ‘Tell us what you need and we will do our best to make sure it gets addressed quickly.’ I don’t think we knew what to say. Tell you what we want? We’d never heard that before.”