Martin Zapata, who lived and worked at Belmont Park, died April 7 at the age of 63 following a two-week battle with the coronavirus. He was a native of Panama and spent the past two years working as a groom for trainer Tom Morley.
Morley, who resides in West Hempstead, started a GoFundMe fundraiser for the Zapata family and raised more than $10,000 in the first six hours. On the GoFundMe page, Morley wrote: “He was an integral and much loved part of our team at Morley Racing but he was also a family man, a loving husband and will be sorely missed from coast to coast. New York racing has lost one of its own and Panama one of its brightest, smiling sons.”
At the time of his death, Zapata was reportedly one of 20 Belmont residents/workers to test positive for Covid-19. He tested positive on March 24 and was hospitalized two days later when his condition worsened.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our community. Martin was a well-regarded horseman who always demonstrated great care and joy in his work. Our deepest condolences go out to his family and friends,” said New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association President Joe Appelbaum.
New York Racing Association CEO and President Dave O’Rourke said in a statement: “We at NYRA offer our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Martin Zapata, a beloved member of our New York racing community and a respected horseman. During these troubling times, we stand together with our colleagues at NYTHA, B.E.S.T, Belmont Child Care Association, and the New York Race Track Chaplaincy to offer comfort for all who are mourning Martin and to continue to support the ongoing needs of the backstretch community”