Industry Shows Appreciation for Day's Career

By Claire Novak
After more than 11,000 racing fans enjoyed "Pat's Day" at Churchill Downs on Saturday afternoon, horsemen gathered to honor the Hall of Fame jockey at a charity roast Saturday evening.

The roast featured presentations from Churchill's all-time leading female rider, Patricia "P.J." Cooksey, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Day's well-known agent Doc Danner, and Karl Pew, the trainer who put Day on his first winner. Attendees were also treated to a video segment with highlights from the jockey's career and comments from leading horsemen in the racing community.

"Trying to roast Pat Day is like pulling jury duty," said Lukas. "He's such a good person, it's hard to find something to say. Now, you know all about the nearly $300 million in earnings and more than 8,000 wins... but here are some statistics you may not have heard. In a thirty-some year career, Pat has gone through 140 pairs of jockey boots, over 295 goggles, 146 pairs of jock's pants... and [it seems as if] he has used one whip. That whip, in a thirty-some year career, is still in mint condition, and just the other day – upon his retirement – he gave it to John McKee. It is still totally unused."

"Pat was the only jockey who could get beat at the wire without using his stick and then get to ride that horse back," noted Cooksey. "And the riders at Churchill Downs always had a love-hate relationship with Mr. Day. We hated following his little derriere around the racetrack day after day, but we truly loved him when he was out of town. We'd gather around the television set in the jockey's quarters at Churchill, and we'd always get a thrill out of watching him win those big stakes races. We were never so proud to call Pat Day one of our own, and as a jockey who rode against him, I can tell you he was one of the greatest riders in the world."

Sponsored by Commonwealth Bank and Trust, the fundraising event raised more than $30,000 for Day's selected charities – the Race Track Chaplaincy of America and Mom's Closet Center (founded by Sheila Day). The jockey also announced that a portion of the proceeds will be donated to horsemen's relief efforts at Ellis Park, while an additional percentage will go to the Churchill Downs chaplaincy.

"What an awesome way to commemorate such an incredible and fulfilling career," said an emotional Day as he closed the event. "It seems like just yesterday that Karl Pew put me on a horse I would have paid to ride. 40,000 races later, to stand here tonight with my family and friends and remember such an awesome career in this way ... I'm just speechless.

"You know," Day concluded, "I never worked for thirty-two years – I thoroughly loved the racing game. I am incredibly grateful for the multitude of owners and trainers who have given me opportunities to go places and do things I never dreamed possible. Now we close the book on that chapter of my life, and we move forward. In the next chapter, there will be no retirement. I love people, I love to talk and share with people, and by the grace of God that's what I'm going to do for the rest of my life – talk, share, reach out, and spread the love of Jesus."

"Pat Day touched everybody within the industry," trainer Neil Howard said. "He always had something to say that made you think – words of wisdom, I guess you would call them. I think he made me a better person; he's definitely left an indelible mark on the industry. He may be imitated, but never duplicated."