Neftali "Junior" Gutierrez is the 11th winner of the Dogwood Dominion Award. The award honors unsung heroes in racing.
Gutierrez is the self-appointed community leader of the backstretch at Belmont Park. He is an employee of the racetrack and works on its night cleaning crew. He is also chief assistant for the recreation department, teaches English classes, and is an instructor in the Groom Development Program. He also supports the Belmont Child Care Association by encouraging backstretch employees to take advantage of the program.
"Junior is a legend on the backstretch at Belmont. He literally works four jobs and spends his 'spare' time tirelessly helping any human being who needs it," said Cot Campbell, president of Dogwood Stable, which sponsors the award.
Gutierrez' contributions are even more notable considering he is battling cancer and has recently been through chemotherapy treatments.
This year 36 individuals were nominated for the Dogwood Dominion award--the most yet. Dogwood will host a luncheon in Gutierrez' honor in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., on July 30. There he will receive a cash award of $5,000 and a bronze statue of the horse Dominion, who tenacious personality triggered the award.