Kirkpatrick & Co. Presents In Their Care: Whether Working With Horses Or People, Edward Escobar Always ‘Goes Beyond’ by Tom Pedulla|10.18.2023|12:05pm Edward Escobar has been a mainstay at New York Racing Association tracks since the late 1980s (photo courtesy of Edward Escobar) Edward Escobar never wanted to follow in his father's footsteps. And the world is a better place for that. Escobar was born in the Bronx and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He never knew his father. He never enjoyed the guidance of a good father. He never heard a stern but loving voice. As he grew, Escobar quickly became known as “Flaco,” or slim. He turned his lack of bulk to his advantage by attending jockey school from 1984-'86. He ventured to New York to seek racetrack employment in 1988 at age 19. Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr. was among those who helped him to feel at home. “He's my angel,” Escobar said. “I learned a lot from him as an exercise rider and a jockey.” Escobar, 54, has become a mainstay on the backstretch at New York Racing Association tracks. He is an asset as an exercise rider but, more importantly, he is embraced as an extraordinary person. Nick Caras, who oversees various programs that aid backstretch workers, describes Escobar as a “go-to person” for those in need. “It's a blessing whenever he's involved,” Caras said. “He can definitely move the ball down the field, if that's an expression.” Escobar delights in the unpaid work he does almost daily once he is done galloping horses each morning. “That's what we call volunteers,” he said. “You want to do something from the heart, you get something from their heart. “Some people, the first thing they say is, 'How much are you going to pay me?' Not me.” Escobar does everything he can to be readily available. “Everybody says, 'When you have a problem, go see Flaco,'” he said proudly. “Sometimes they don't speak English and they're afraid to talk. So they look for me and say, 'Flaco, I need to talk to you. I have a problem.'” Escobar works closely with Caras and with Humberto Chavez, chaplain of the Racetrack Chaplaincy of New York. He said of his interaction with fellow workers, “I talk to them and say, 'What happened? I can't help you but I can talk to somebody who can help you.'” Caras cannot begin to estimate how many people Escobar has assisted. He finally settles on “countless” and adds, “He knows the ins and outs. He is easy to talk to, but he is not a pushover.” When Escobar is not being a good listener, he contributes in other ways by helping to arrange various bus trips such as sightseeing in New York City, visits to amusement parks, and taking in the massive Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. He views any activity as a good activity. “They stay in the rooms, most of the people. That's what we're trying to avoid,” Escobar said. “Come with us, enjoy, see new things.” He wakes up at 4 a.m. daily and takes pride in everything he does. He has been employed by many trainers over the years, but he found a home with Bruce Levine for the last 12 years. They are a perfect fit. “He's the first one here,” Levine said. “He sets the tack out. He puts out the set list for every groom. He goes beyond what he needs to do, you know what I'm saying?” Escobar takes everything in stride. “He has the patience of a saint with a horse. He's just very kind to the animal,” Levine said. “He's just a really good guy. He should be up for the Good Guy Award.” Escobar speaks glowingly of the accomplishments of his children: Stephanie, 32; Christopher, 20; Jaz Marie, 19; and Rosa, 18. “I'm very focused on my job,” he said. “I'm very focused on them, too.” Escobar's opportunities have been limited, but he still dreams of riding a winner in the afternoon (photo courtesy of Edward Escobar) He also is focused on one goal that has been incredibly elusive – his first victory as a jockey. According to Equibase, he is 0 for 81 in records that date to 1995. He has never had an agent and gains mounts sporadically, receiving horses no one else wants in exchange for galloping horses in the morning at no charge. He is still searching for a live mount. “If I don't have the horse,” he said, “I don't have the purse.” His greatest memory involves battling Richard Migliore for second in a maiden special weight race on the tough New York circuit. The photo revealed he narrowly missed gaining second aboard a 32-1 shot whose name he does not recall. In Escobar's lone mount this season, he came in last of five aboard Reapply for owner and trainer James Chapman in a maiden special weight race on June 4 at Belmont Park. He lagged at the back of the pack throughout and was eventually beaten by 22 ¾ lengths. Escobar is undeterred. “Never give up. Never give up,” he said. “I just have to find the right spot and the right horse.” If he ever does, expect cheers to rise from barns across the land. 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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