Hall of Fame jockeys Steve Cauthen, Angel Cordero Jr., Pat Day, Don Brumfield, Earlie Fires, Chris McCarron, Bobby Ussery and Kent Desormeaux took questions from racing fans and signed autographs at Keeneland in an April 18 event that supported the Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund.
McCarron, founder of the North American Racing Academy, addressed the need for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys’ Fund and other charities of its kind.
“Medical coverage for everybody, not just jockeys, has skyrocketed over the last 20 years, and we all know race riding is a very dangerous occupation,” he said. “Raising money for injured and disabled riders has been something that I’ve been involved with for a long time and I’m very grateful to Keeneland for supporting this fund-raiser today.”
McCarron also is involved with the Don MacBeth Memorial Jockey Fund, a program established in 1987 that has brought in almost $3 million in donations while helping more than 1,800 injured jockeys and exercise riders.
Day, who retired from racing in August of 2006 and is now a full-time industry ambassador with the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, said his retirement has been “decidedly fulfilling and rewarding” as he focuses his efforts on work with the non-profit organization.
The 60-year-old Fires, still actively riding with more than 6,200 career wins, attributed his longevity to limiting his activities during morning training hours. Fires has ridden winners at Keeneland in each of the past five decades.
Cauthen, best-known for his Triple Crown win as a 17-year-old aboard Affirmed in 1978, answered questions about his career in Europe, where he revolutionized race riding and was a leading jockey before retiring in 1993.
Racing fans at Keeneland were encouraged to purchase a blank $5 autograph book for the Hall of Fame riders to sign. All proceeds from the event went to the PDJF, an NTRA Charity that provides monthly support to 58 permanently disabled jockeys. The fund is overseen by a board of industry representatives from NTRA tracks, horsemen’s groups, and the Jockeys’ Guild.
Jockeys’ Guild chairman John Velazquez said Keeneland’s Hall of Fame Jockey Day was “a long time in coming” and “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for racing fans.” Velazquez said he’s been frustrated by the fund's slow start in gaining industry support, but said he’s excited to see the Hall of Fame riders raising awareness.
“These guys were some of the greatest athletes in our sport,” Velazquez said. “People may say some active riders are like them, but it’s all a comparison. There’ll never be another Angel Cordero. There’ll never be another Pat Day or Chris McCarron. These guys are legends, and to see them step up and support the PDJF just shows you how important this issue really is.”
The next high-profile fundraiser for the PDJF will be the auction of Edgar Prado’s saddle from the 2006 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at the May 4 Mint Jubilee Gala in Louisville. All of the jockeys featured in Keeneland’s Hall of Fame Jockey Day are expected to attend, along with the jockeys who have mounts in the 2007 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).