Belmont Groom Dies from COVID-19


Martin ZapataTom Morley

Martin Zapata, who spent the last two years working as a groom for trainer Tom Morley, died Tuesday due to complications from COVID-19, according to NYTHA. The 63-year-old Panama native tested positive Mar. 24 and was hospitalized Mar. 26.

“Martin was a beloved member of our team for the past two years who always greeted you at the door with a huge smile. He’ll be sorely missed by all those in the New York racing community and further afield as well as his family in Panama,” said Morley, who started a Gofundme in Zapata’s memory.

Wednesday morning Morley tweeted, “The kind messages this morning won’t fill the void in the barn. But the amount of people who remember Martin smile, his always friendly welcome to the barn. Thank you for your memories.”

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our community. Martin was a well-regarded horseman who always demonstrated great care and joy in his work. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends,” said NYTHA President Joe Appelbaum.

“We at NYRA offer our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Martin Zapata, a beloved member of our New York racing community and a respected horseman,” said NYRA CEO David O’Rourke. “During these troubling times, we stand together with our colleagues at NYTHA, B.E.S.T, Belmont Child Care Association, and the New York Race Track Chaplaincy to offer comfort for all who are mourning Martin and to continue to support the ongoing needs of the backstretch community.”


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