Kirkpatrick & Co. Presents In Their Care: Married Couple Enjoys A Simple, Beautiful Life Together With Horses Like Mage - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Kirkpatrick & Co. Presents In Their Care: Married Couple Enjoys A Simple, Beautiful Life Together With Horses Like Mage

Nancy Duarte and her husband of 38 years, Moises Morales, tending to Mage, fourth-place finisher in the Fountain of Youth

Moises Morales was 17 when he decided to leave Chihuahua, Mexico, and attempted to cross illegally into the United States in 1977. He had little idea what awaited him, but he was intent on getting there.

He was so determined that he walked through the desert day and night, only to be apprehended by border patrol agents and returned to Mexico.

Morales was undeterred. He hired a coyote, someone who specializes in smuggling people into the United States. This time, the teenager successfully eluded immigration officials and began work at Turf Paradise race course in Phoenix.

When it was time for horses to be shipped to Chicago, he slipped into a large box meant to contain horse blankets and was carried into the plane. He was able to leave the box once he was out of view.   Upon arrival in Chicago, he slept in that same box on Friday and Saturday nights, when barns were often checked for undocumented workers. He lived with the fear of detection until he became a citizen in 1982.

“It means everything,” he said of his citizenship. “I have a lot of respect for the country. You have everything you want, everything you need.”

Morales' decision to leave home could not have been more beneficial. He found work that he cares about as a groom. More than that, he found the love of his life. He spotted Nancy Duarte at a restaurant where she was working, and they were immediately drawn to each other. She soon left the restaurant to join him in working at the barn.

They have been married 38 years. They have a daughter, Haley, and a precious 6-year-old granddaughter, Asenet, who live a few minutes from Gulfstream Park. Morales and Duarte work for trainer Gustavo Delgado at Barn 22. They drive a 2010 Ford Explorer and live at the track, as happy together today as the day they were married.

“I can't keep separate from him,” said Duarte, 67.

Moises Morales

They are very much a team. Duarte walks the horses her husband grooms while jumping in wherever else she is needed. She also makes sure Barn 22 is a place of beauty. She has thriving plants everywhere that she tends to daily.

“I have them in my heart, plants,” said Duarte. Her love of nature stems from her mother, Lucilla, who still lives in Nicaragua.

“She takes care of horses and she takes care of the garden, too. She loves her plants as much as I think she likes horses,” said Gustavo Delgado, Jr., who works beside his father as his top assistant.

Morales, now 63, is as skilled with horses as his wife is with plants. His impressive resume includes a decade with Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott that greatly expanded his knowledge of horses while allowing him to work with the great Cigar on a limited basis.

“He was like my second father,” Morales said of Mott. “He is one of the best trainers you can find. I learned a lot from him. But I learn a lot from everybody. Everybody has something to show me and I learn.”

Nancy Duarte

Delgado, Jr., 33, tries to soak up as much knowledge from Morales as he does from his father. “I'm grateful to my father because he is a good horseman. At the track, I would say he is one of the best because he knows how to condition a horse,” Delgado Jr. said. “But I will say I owe many of the things about how to take care of a horse to Moises.”

Morales excels at spotting issues with his horses. “One of the things you look for in a good groom, if you miss something, he will let you know right on time before it gets too late and you can't do anything,” said Delgado Jr. “Sometimes we create a major problem if we fail to attend to the minor ones.”

Morales could not be happier with his career. “I love what I do. I love working with the horses,” he said. “When it is work you really like, you do it for yourself.”

One of the horses Morales grooms is Mage, who jumped up to the G2 Fountain of Youth after an impressive maiden win Jan. 28.

Some couples might find working together stressful and potentially volatile. Not these two. “We've been working together for a long time, since I met her. I enjoy it and she enjoys it because we help each other,” Morales said. “We are not people who are fighting and all of this. No, no.”

Although they said they have saved enough money to retire, they remain plenty vigorous enough to handle the daily grind. And nothing about their chores is a grind to them. When it comes to material things, they are content with what they have. They are not driven by bigger and better.

“Simple life is beautiful life,” said Morales, so pleased with the life-changing decision he made long ago.

Tom Pedulla, 2022 recipient of the Walter Haight Award from the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters, wrote for USA Today from 1995-2012 and has been a contributor to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Blood-Horse, America's Best Racing and other publications.

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