A 24-year-old Remington Park maintenance department employee who died as a result of injuries sustained in an accident in March was honored posthumously Nov. 1 with the White Horse Award from the Race Track Chaplaincy of America.
The sequence of events that led to the death of Michael C. Priddy began when the Quarter Horse Jimi Jive unseated his rider and ran up the chute. A strapping seven-footer who had been a committed employee at the Oklahoma City, Okla., track since April 2011, Priddy sprang into action.
In an effort to keep the gelding from leaving the track, Priddy moved quickly to close a gate left open when the maintenance tractors entered the track. Before Priddy could complete his task, Jimi Jive rammed the gate, slamming into Priddy's body and seriously injuring the worker. Despite several hours of surgery, Priddy died March 4.
"All at Remington Park were heart-broken--not just to have lost a team member, but because of the kind of team member he was," a testimonial to Priddy in the White Horse Awards program stated. "He was a loyal, hard-working young man who was very proud of his job. His pride showed in the way he did his job."
The testimonial noted that Priddy's work ethic was even more impressive, considering that he suffered daily from the effects of scoliosis. As a result of his height and generous personality, Priddy was nicknamed the "gentle giant."
Prior to presenting awards to Priddy's widow, Cheri, and daughter, Elizabeth, RTCA president Gary Cartwright noted that the award Priddy received was the first in the 10-year history of the White Horse Awards for an individual who has done something heroic on behalf of a human or a horse and that the honoree has been a racetrack employee and not a member of the backstretch community.
It is also the second year in a row that the recipient was associated with Remington Park. In 2011, Jeremy Best was honored for his efforts to save a Quarter Horse jockey from the wild thrashings of a panicked horse at the track.
In the keynote speech at the White Horse Awards luncheon, RTCA executive director Craig Wiley reflected on the work done by the organization since it was formed 40 years ago by Salty Roberts.
Other awards presented during the luncheon were:
--A "Tribute of Excellence" to the late Norma Stone, wife of prominent equine artist Fred Stone. Stone said his wife, who died Oct. 22, 2011, at age 80, played a key role in his life and work, adding "the basis of everything I am today I owe to Norma." In addition to their business success, the Stones have contributed more than $2 million to charitable organizations.
--"Community Service Award" to Israel "Izzy" Vega, the founder of Race Track Chaplaincy of California who has more than 40 years' experience in evangelism, event coordination, and media relations in Latin America and the U.S. For the last 12 years, he has been involved with Promise Keepers.
--A "Special Tribute" to John Shear, a Santa Anita paddock guard who has served in various positions at the track since 1961. Shear suffered a broken pelvis and life-threatening internal bleeding when he helped protect a young girl from a loose horse.