It is well known that jockey Pat Day is a very religious person. So, could something be at work other than circumstance that led him to his 2004 Derby mount?
Day riding a horse with the word "minister" in its name...
"Somebody asked me last week who I was riding in the Derby," Day said Tuesday morning on the Churchill Downs backstretch after being aboard Minister Eric for the first time. "I told them, 'The Good Lord has put me on the winner.' "
At the time, however, Day didn't have a Derby mount.
"He led me to Minister Eric," Day said.
Day has won more than 8,000 races, but he has no problem identifying his greatest victory on the racetrack. "Lil E. Tee was my greatest experience in racing," he said matter-of-factly about the 1992 Derby winner.
Lil E. Tee was nearly 17-1, and Minister Eric figures to be even longer odds. The son of Old Trieste has won one of three starts, that his last outing, an allowance race at Keeneland on Apri. 14.
Day worked Minister Eric, bred and owned by Gerald Ford's Diamond A Racing, four furlongs in 49 4/5 Tuesday morning.
"He was very aggressive with the pony when we got on the track but then when she let him loose, he was kind and loose. He got over the track very well," the Hall of Fame rider said.
Back at the barn following the breeze, trainer Richard Mandella paid Day the highest compliment, comparing him to the legendary rider Bill Shoemaker, who died last year.
"He just gets the most out of a horse without having the horse exert himself," Mandella, who will also saddle Action This Day in the Derby, said. "More than any rider, he reminds me of 'The Shoe.' "
High praise, but fitting for a religious man who will be riding a horse named Minister.