REDWOOD CITY, CA.--David Corrales, an Assemblies of God chaplain, goes to a horse racetrack everyday to win. What he wants is not to win a bet on a race but to win hearts of the workers at the racetracks for Jesus Christ.
Corrales preaches the gospel to those who work at two horse racetracks called Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley and Bay Meadows in San Mateo, but many people have laughed when he told them where he works.
"Sometimes people ask me, 'What do you do, pray for the horses?' or 'Do you console the betters after they lose?' " said Corrales with a laugh.
He remembered he also laughed when his father, his pastor at the time, proposed the job to him in 1984. Now, although he keeps a smile on his face, he knows the need for a chaplain is no joke.
"You have trainers, exercise riders, jockeys and veterinarians for 1,500 horses," said the 43-year old chaplain.
Corrales explained that a horse race track is divided into two sections: the front side where the public watches the race and the back side where the horses are stabled. Since there are about 800 racetrack employees who work on the front side and more than 600 on the back side, Corrales has plenty of people to give the Gospel to.
Many of the stable employees, about 400, are grooms for the horses so they are required to live on the grounds. The grooms care for the horses daily by taking it out to exercise, brushing and feeding them. Corrales says many of the workers have become so dedicate to their job that their relationships with family members and friends have suffered. The grooms also suffer too when they turn to alcohol and illegal drugs.
The racetrack hired Corrales knowing needed a spiritual leader for its employees. It pays a majority of Corrales salary.
"The racetrack realizes there are a lot of people with needs that many times they are not equipped to address. This is where they see the value of a chaplain."
He spends most his time listening to the employees and praying for them.
“My goal is to establish friendships and build trust so when they are in need they will call me," he said.
Before races, Corrales also holds short devotional and prayer times for jocks.
"David is a solid spiritual adviser," 62-year-old retired jockey Jack Leonard said. "He's a blessing to the racetrack and through him Christ is being proclaimed."
To further address the spiritual needs of the employees on the racetrack, Corrales leads three chapel services each week, one in English and one in Spanish since the majority of the grooms speak Spanish. He attends the Templo La Luz, an A/G church, in Redwood City.
His 20 years at the racetracks have led to over 100 salvation decisions. He is glad he took the job. He was out to win the heart of the workers but what he didn’t realize was it they would win his.
“Since then, I've fallen in love with the people and the ministry.”