Caring for the people who care for the horses


BEST is a nonprofit organization that is devoted to meeting the health and social welfare needs of the several thousand barn area ("backstretch") workers of the Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga racetracks by providing on-site counseling and primary healthcare services, access to health insurance, and case management assistance.​

30 Years of Support


Quality of care

BEST is committed to providing

backstretch workers with the highest standard of care and medical expertise, empowering them to live healthy and well.




BEST makes the individualized needs of the backstretch workers our top priority, always taking their wishes, rights, and traditions into consideration.

BEST performs our work with the highest regard for personal dignity and professional ethics.

BEST facilitates connections 
among backstretch workers and the community at large, fostering a sense of belonging and
shared experience.



Paul Ruchames, LCSW

Executive Director

Nancy L. Underwood - MA

Saratoga Program Director 

Frank Caruso


The Team


Francisco Barrera // Assistant Teacher 

Paola Cardenas // Benefits Coordinator

Stella Cardenas // Outreach Coordinator and Case Manager

Kristy Wong // Office Manager

Stephanie Garthwaite, LMHC, MSW// Substance Abuse Counselor

Gladys Llerena // Benefits Administrative Assistant

Juana Maria, MSW, CASAC // Substance Abuse Counselor

Vivian Muniz // Benefits Director

Victoria Palacios // ESL Teacher, and Citizenship Class Teacher

Luisa Garcia-Soler // ESL Teacher


Samira Bazoni // Client Care Coordinator

Judy Beck, LCSW-R // Clinical Social Worker

Jeselle Brandebourger // Language Service Coordinator

Robert Dufort // Transportation

Julio Pantoja, CASAC-G // Substance Abuse Counselor

Josephine Serravento // Dental & Vision Benefits Coordinator

Sheriza Serravento // Program Assistant and Special Events

Roger Sousa // Volunteer Coordinator

Board of Directors


Andy Belfiore | Co-Chair

Project Manager, THA

Iris Roberts |  Co-Chair  | Secretary

Associate General Counsel, NYRA

Jimmy Ferraro | Treasurer

Horse Trainer


William Alempijevic | Member

Executive Director, NYTHA

Chad Brown | Member

Horse Trainer

Tom Durkin | Member

Retired Track Announcer  

Nicole Rudolph-Katz | Member

SVP, Corporate Risk Solutions 

Leah Gyarmati | Member

Horse Trainer

Vanessa Rodriguez | Member

Community Relations & Public Affairs, NYRA

We Need Your Support Today!

Backstretch Employee Service Team
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Phone: (516) 488-3434 ext. 103

Registered Charity: EIN 11-2976735

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