Ferris Allen Bootstraps Scholarship Awarded To Alvaro Barajas
Alvaro Barajas, who has worked as hot walker at Laurel Park since 2018, has been selected the first recipient of the “Ferris Allen Bootstraps Scholarship,” which awards the winner $10,000 toward his or her college education with the goal of offsetting some of the cost.
The new scholarship program is funded by Ferris Allen, the Laurel-based trainer who also serves on the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association Board of Directors. Qualified candidates include those who have been employed on the backstretch at Laurel or Pimlico Race Course or work in another support area of Maryland Thoroughbred racing in the previous three years. Candidates had to be pursuing a degree at a four-year college.
“We realize this stipend is only a part of the financial challenge involved in funding a college education,” Allen said. “We hope it makes a difference in encouraging a fine member of our racetrack community to pull themselves ‘up by their bootstraps.’ Alvaro richly deserves to be our first recipient.”
Barajas, who has worked for trainer Damon Dilodovico since the fall of 2022, is in his third year at Prince George’s Community College. He plans to complete his studies at PGCC, earn his associate’s degree, and then enroll for classes next fall at a university. He said his options include Bowie State University, University of Maryland and Towson University; he plans to pursue a degree in clinical psychology.
Barajas was born in California but lived for 11 years in Mexico before returning to the U.S. in 2015. His father worked at the track and would bring him along for the afternoon feeding time for horses.
“I love horses and found it super-nice to work with them,” Barajas said. “In Mexico, my great-grandad has horses, and I when I got back to the United States my father took me to the racetrack. I find horses to be amazing animals—my favorite animals. The work (on the backstretch) can be exhausting but it’s really fun. I just like being close to nature. We are a team at the barn, all working together. There are nice people I work with.”
“Alvaro has worked as a hot walker and has also been in charge of the feed schedule,” Dilodovico said. “He has always stepped up to help out around the barn for anything he is asked to do. Alvaro has also been very helpful assisting as a translator so we our certain our employees receive the proper instructions. He is very serious about his studies and I feel this scholarship will go a long way toward helping him achieve his personal goals and become a very helpful member of society.”
Barajas is at the racetrack all week from 5-10 a.m., and then takes his college courses. He said that while in health class in high school, he “found it fascinating how the mind works in different people” and later decided to pursue a psychology degree.
Barajas thanked Allen, Dilovodico and trainer Phil Schoenthal, who supported his endeavors and also submitted a recommendation.
Laurel Park in 2023 was able to host 273 turf races, the most since 2019 and the highest number among all racetracks in the Mid-Atlantic region.