(edited press release)
Former jockey Pat Day took a recent trip to three Korean tracks on behalf of the Race Track Chaplaincy of America and solidified his status as one of horse racing’s best known ambassadors. The trip also reunited Day with Commendable, the horse who gave the Eclipse Award winner his ninth and final Triple Crown race victory.
Day returned to the U.S. this week after an 11-day tour that featured three press conferences, appearances on Korean TV and radio, and several interviews for major newspaper articles. Day spoke to groups at the three Korean tracks in Seoul, Pusan and on Jeju Island where indigenous ponies are raced.
Over 200 racing officials, horse owners, trainers and jockeys gathered at Seoul’s Korean Racing Association track to hear Day relate the highlights of his long career and then spoke on his lifelong search for meaning and purpose.
On Jeju Island, home to the KRA stud farm, Day rode a thoroughbred for the first time since he retired in 2005 when he was given a leg up on Commendable, the 10-year-old stallion on whom he won the 2000 Belmont Stakes.
“He looked good,“ said Day, “I hadn’t seen him since he was three, so it was a lot of fun and a very interesting moment for me.”
At Jeju Racetrack, Day rode one of the racing ponies through the saddling paddock, dedicated a plaque in his honor, posed before a bench seat that featured a larger than life cutout of him aboard former Horse of the Year, Azeri, and even helped plant a tree to commemorate his visit.
Last year Day visited Australia, New Zealand and several South American countries in behalf of RTCA and said those trips prepared him for the huge media response he found in Korea.
“I was surprised that I was known by so many all around the world,” he said. “But I was really blown away by the reception at Jeju.”
Day made the tour with Dr. Enrique Torres, Executive Director of the RTCA, and the organization’s President, Rev. Edward Smith.
The trip was fully sponsored by the KRA, the Korean Jockeys Guild and the Junma Church (The Great Horse Church), which is housed inside the Seoul track. Day spoke there as well as in other churches, presented winners’ circle trophies, visited the riders in the three Jockey's Rooms and signed hundreds of his “Racing For the Master” posters of his major victories, and “Eternal Friend,” pamphlets that relate his life’s story as a Christian. Korea Jockeys Guide Director Kisun Kim acted as the trio’s guide.
KRA officials asked the RTCA group to advise on track Chaplaincy matters and Day said he believed the trip will result in expanding the track ministry in Seoul and establishing outreach ministries to track workers at the two other tracks. “The reception at all three tracks was very special,” he said. “It gave all of us something to build on.”
RTCA sanctions and oversees 74 track chaplains who serve at 113 tracks and training/breeding centers worldwide.