Top jockeys from across the country, including several born in Louisiana, will participate in the Katrina Invitational Jockey Challenge at Meadowlands the evening of Nov. 10. They're donating all fees earned to the Race Track Chaplaincy of America to benefit Louisiana horsemen affected by Hurricane Katrina.
Among those taking part in the four-race challenge, scheduled as the third, fourth, sixth, and seventh races at the New Jersey track, are Louisiana natives Kent Desormeaux, Craig Perret, Mark Guidry, and Eddie Martin, Jr., as well as Gary Stevens, Joe Bravo, Edgar Prado, Stewart Elliott, and Aaron Gryder.
Meadowlands will donate $10,000 to the cause as well, and donations will be accepted throughout the evening from fans and local horsemen.
"I lived through (Hurricane) Camille, and my family lived through Katrina," said Perret, a New Orleans native who took part in a Nov. 9 conference call about the event. "For eight days, I couldn't reach anyone there. They shipped from state to state. My family is pretty shattered right now. It's pretty devastating. We're going to do what we can to help people in that area."
"It's one thing to lose a few shingles on your roof, but quite another to lose a house," said Kent Desormeaux, who hails from Maurice, La. Desormeaux said his first cousin, who lives in the New Iberia, La., area, was directly affected by the hurricane, having to evacuate his house when it flooded.
"He has a baby and a 2-year-old, and they've been sleeping on couches until their house dries out," Desormeaux said. "Thank God no lives were lost."
Though jockey Joe Bravo is a New Jersey native and resident, he said he was ready, willing, and able to help when Meadowlands officials announced they were holding the Katrina Challenge.
"I'm so happy we could pull this together," Bravo said. "I tried to put myself in (the hurricane victims') shoes. The local riders didn't talk about lost revenue, there weren't any negative vibes...everyone is excited about raising money for this cause."
Tad Dowd, who has done marketing for Desormeaux and is a cousin to Meadowlands executive vice president Dennis Dowd, conceived the idea for the Katrina Challenge.
"The winners in this competition will be the horsemen who have had their homes, farms, and livelihoods washed away by Hurricane Katrina," Dennis Dowd said.