by Gordon Waterstone, The Horseman and Fair World
Justin MacEachern, who works in the Ross Croghan Stable, has been named the recipient of the 2016 Caretaker of the Year Award sponsored by Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park (HHRNP) in conjunction with the U.S. Harness Writers Association (USHWA).
MacEachern, 26, has worked for Croghan for three years, and in 2016 he was the caretaker of Breeders Crown 3-Year-Old Filly Pace champ Call Me Queen Be. Call Me Queen Be also included in her 2016 victories the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes final as well as the first heat of the Jugette at Delaware, Ohio, when she set a new world record of 1:50.1h for her division.
“I am so overwhelmed by this, I can’t even begin to explain it,” said MacEachern. “When you take care of a horse, and I’ve taken care of Call Me Queen Be for two years and she was my only horse up until this winter, just waking up every day knowing that I had so much to do with the horse, it’s just great. There is a whole connection there and it’s an amazing feeling.”
All caretakers in North America are eligible for the award, with nomination letters submitted detailing the skills and special qualities of the nominee. A seven-member panel—all of whom were former caretakers themselves—chose MacEachern as the winner. As winner of the HHRNP Caretaker of the Year Award, MacEachern will receive a cash prize of $500, transportation, hotel accommodations and two tickets to USHWA’s annual Dan Patch Awards banquet presented by Hoosier Park on Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, where he will be presented a trophy.
A third-generation horseman, MacEachern had been pursuing a degree in culinary management at the Art Institute of Philadelphia when the lure of the horses changed his direction.
MacEachern received several nominations, with one noting the “countless hours he has dedicated to the filly (Call Me Queen Be)” and a pacer who he needed “to use his horsemanship skills to gain the trust of.”
Croghan agreed, saying recently, “He has spent hours and hours with this filly giving her confidence and getting her mannered. Justin has just put his heart and soul into this horse.”
Croghan also noted MacEachern’s attention to detail, whether it involved shipping, shoeing, exercise schedules or equipment.
Another nominator noted that MacEachern “risked his own life” last winter when fire engulfed a barn at the South Florida Trotting Center. One of the first on the scene, MacEachern helped rescue several horses from the burning barn, later helping ship the injured to a nearby vet clinic.
MacEachern, along with all the USHWA 2016 award winners, including Always B Miki as Horse of the Year, will be recognized during the banquet on Feb. 26. Information on tickets and accommodations for the event can be found at www.ushwa.org.