One unique breed of Louisianans, those that proudly call themselves Cajuns, is known for coming together in times of need, and Thoroughbred horsemen traditionally have closed their ranks to help one another. On Sept. 9, guests at Arlington Park attached themselves to those two groups in a commendable team effort to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The wives of several Arlington Park jockeys and trainers, borrowing from a firemen's tradition, "passed the boot" throughout the racetrack to Arlington's Thoroughbred racing fans during the Sept. 9 twilight racing program, and were quick to express their gratitude to the generous response they received.
"This is going absolutely great," said Debbie Laviolette, wife of Arlington jockey Shane Laviolette, one of those who paused between her endeavors while "passing the boot." Her husband, born in New Orleans, is one of thousands of Louisianans who had family displaced by the recent disaster.
"I'm very happy for how positive the response has been to this drive," said Laviolette. "Almost everyone has been anxious to contribute, and we're all very grateful."
A total of $1,542 was collected by the small group of horsemen's wives Sept. 9 on the first day of their effort, which continued over the weekend. Friday's total, and those to follow, will be put into "R. T. C. A. Illinois Horsemen's Relief Fund," established by the horsemen of Illinois to assist the horsemen of Louisiana and their families in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Arlington jockeys also conducted an autograph session in the paddock over the weekend and will be collecting donations Sept. 14, at the gates from 11:15 a.m. CDT until the third race of the day.