Henry Cano, who works in the Ake Svanstedt Stable based in central New Jersey and was the groom of three finalists in last August’s Hambletonian, has been named the recipient of the 2021 U.S. Caretaker of the Year Award.
The award is sponsored by Art Zubrod and Leah Cheverie’s Fair Island Farm in conjunction with the U.S. Harness Writers Association.
Cano, 32, has worked for Svanstedt for three years. Previously, he spent more than a dozen years working for Erv Miller.
“I’m very happy,” said Cano. “I never expected this. I never thought this could happen to me. But it happened and I’m excited about it.”
Cano was the caretaker of six horses last year, including Svanstedt’s trio of Hambletonian Stakes finalists: Captain Corey, Ambassador Hanover and Delayed Hanover. Captain Corey and Delayed Hanover were Hambletonian elimination winners and Captain Corey went on to capture the $1 million final. Ambassador Hanover finished third in the final and Delayed Hanover was fourth.
“You can be the favourite and you still don’t know if you’re going to win,” said Cano. “We got a little luck. I couldn’t believe it. It was an exciting day. It’s something I will always remember, for all time.”
Captain Corey earned $758,695 last year while Ambassador Hanover banked $434,189 and Delayed Hanover had $257,510. All three three-year-old trotting colts, who were in Cano’s care since arriving at the Svanstedt Stable as yearlings, were winners on the Grand Circuit.
In addition, Cano was the caretaker of two-year-old trotting colt Coach K Hanover, another Grand Circuit winner and runner-up in the Valley Victory Stakes.
“I just love to spend time with the horses,” said Cano, who had horses while growing up in Guatemala and came to the U.S. about 17 years ago. “I love to see them get to the track and see them race. I just feel good working them.”
All caretakers in North America were eligible for the Fair Island Farm Caretaker of the Year Award, with nomination letters submitted detailing the skills and special qualities of the nominee. Cano had multiple people nominate him, including Sarah and Ake Svanstedt as well as 10 of his fellow caretakers at the Svanstedt Stable.
“Henry is a self-motivated, responsible, hard-working individual who has a deep passion for the horses and this sport,” the Svanstedts wrote in their nomination letter. “He is a team player and has a great respect toward us and his fellow workers. He is very detail oriented and makes sure his horses get the best care possible.
“None of (the success) would be possible without the exceptional care he gives to his horses. Henry’s horses are his top priority, and you can tell. We are lucky to have him working for us and appreciate everything he does.”
Cano’s fellow caretakers wrote: “His horses are always looking good and are well behaved. He has a special good hand with the young colts, and he educates them to be perfect behaved horses. In the barn, he is the guy who always has his things done perfectly, but whenever you drop by, he always has the time for a chat. He is always in a good mood and is a good support for his colleagues.”
A seven-member panel of former caretakers selected Cano the winner of the Fair Island Farm Caretaker of the Year Award. Cano will receive a cash prize of $1,000 as well as transportation costs to the USHWA Dan Patch Awards banquet in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday night, Feb. 20, where he will be recognized and presented with a trophy. He also will receive a two-night stay at Rosen Shingle Creek, host hotel for the USHWA activities, as well as two complimentary dinner tickets.
A total of 18 caretakers were nominated for the Fair Island Farm Caretaker of the Year Award. All nominated caretakers will receive a certificate recognizing their accomplishments.
Information on accommodations at Rosen Shingle Creek and dinner tickets can be found at the U.S. Harness Writers Association website.
(With files from USHWA)