Susan O'Hara, founder of the Groom Elite horsemen's education training program, has stepped down as the organization's first and only president and has been replaced by Tommy Azopardi, who had previously served as the secretary-treasurer.
The changes were made during a meeting of fthe board of directors of the Groom Elite Program Dec. 5 in Tucson, Ariz.
Owner of Woodswitch Farm, O’Hara worked with the Texas Horsemen’s Partnership to develop the horsemen’s education training program while serving as a director of the Texas Thoroughbred Horsemen's Benevolent Protective Association. O’Hara believed her horses would have a better chance of competing effectively and retiring sound if grooms were provided with the knowledge and skills that would enable them to more effectively take care of their horses.
The first Groom Elite class was presented at Lone Star Park in the spring of 2001. The program has now expanded to offer Groom Elite, Trainer Elite, Owner Elite, Junior Elite, and Farm Elite classes. Through the end of 2007, the Elite Program classes had been conducted 48 times at racetracks in 15 states, and once by invitation in South Africa. To date, more than 700 grooms have been certified.
“The Elite Program has moved faster and farther than anyone could have ever expected, and with this forward momentum, I felt that even more new ideas could evolve from new leadership," O'Hara said in a statement. "Tommy Azopardi has been active from the inception and was the natural replacement.”
O’Hara will now serve as the organization’s secretary-treasurer. Virginia HBPA executive director Frank Petramalo was elected to serve as vice president.
Azopardi is also the executive director of the Texas Horsemen’s Partnership and the president of Texans for Economic Development.