NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Saturday is the Belmont Stakes and for the second time in four years we could see history made.
One man has been up close and personal with champion horses since 1948. “Papa” Louis Carrasco is the focus of this week’s Snapshot New York with Steve Overmyer.
Dawn breaks at Belmont Park, where world’s best horses are training for the third leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, and one man’s day is about to begin.
At the age of 83, “Papa” Louis is the oldest hot walker at Belmont. For 20 minutes to an hour each day, a hot walker leads the horse round and round. The Chilean-born former jockey, who is employed by locally owned Phipps Stables, has been working with horses for the past 70 years, including the last 52 at Belmont.
“I work seven days a week,” Carrasco said. “Everybody work seven days a week.”
After a race or workout a horse has more energy to release. Walking helps. Sometimes they’ll roll around in the pen. Some even get first-class treatment with a special bath called an Equi-Spa, and sometimes if they’re still feisty, this man steps in.
When asked how he handles a stubborn horse, Carrasco said, “The best way you can!”
Horses seem to love “Papa” Louis as much as he loves them.
“Oh yeah. When you’re here you learn all the bad habits of the horses and you can take it along the best way you can,” Carrasco said. “My way is to give a little candy and talk to the horse, pet him and they are nice.
The secret sauce is you gotta give a little candy.
“I give candy every day to these horses,” Carrasco said.
What kind of candy?
“Only this kind,” he said, showing CBS2’s Overmyer his secret stash of peppermint candy. “They don’t like any other kind. Any other kind of sweet they spit it out.”
There’s even a rumor going around that “Papa” Louis buys candy and gives it to the horses.
“Then they are quiet. The horses are nice,” Carrasco said.
The barns at Belmont are home to more than 2,000 horses. The backbone of this industry is found living back here as well — the backstretch workers.
“Papa” Louis said he isn’t in this to become a millionaire. Like most backstretch workers, he’s here because of a love of horses.
“You pet him and you pet him and you talk to him and you’re nice,” Carrasco said. “And they know … they know you are ‘boys.’ You gotta be patient with the horse.”
And, as Overmyer pointed out, having a pocket-full of candy doesn’t hurt.
“Papa” Louis has been at Belmont since before Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973. Some of the greatest horses in history have been in his hands.
When asked if he ever thinks he’ll stop hot-walking horses, Carrasco said, “No, I don’t think so. You’re body’s gonna let you know when it’s time. When I cannot do what I do now, it’s the end of that. I want to make it to 100 if I can.”
Even with a cane in his hand?
“Yeah, with a cane! What am I gonna do? Go to Central Park and feed the pigeons?” Carrasco said.