Louisiana-born rider Mark Guidry, a veteran leader of the jockeys' room at Arlington Park, gave the track's campaign for the victims of Hurricane Katrina a kick start when he arrived for his riding assignments Thursday."I've been watching the scenes of the devastation down there on the television like everybody else," said Guidry between riding assignments Thursday. "When I came into work today, I knew that the best way to get the word out about starting a fund to help the people down there was to do it through Arlington Park."I talked to (Arlington Park television personality) Christine Gabriel when I came to work today, and she's helped get this effort started," said Guidry. "We've got to do something and do it now. All I can do is visualize myself being in a situation like that. "Thank goodness, my family is safe and all my people live 20 or 30 miles down the Gulf from those people that are underwater right now, but that could have very easily been me and my loved ones suffering the way those people are suffering right now."Arlington has started a "Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund." Guidry and Gabriel appeared on the air between races Thursday asking racing fans and those associated with Arlington Park to help. "Within a few days, all those contributions to our own fund will be turned over to the NTRA or the Red Cross – or powers that are bigger than us – to make sure our donations are properly allocated," said Gabriel. "I gave $1,000 this morning," said Guidry, "and I know that several of our riders in the room here today are donating their earnings from three or four of their mounts today to our cause. I'm going to donate my earnings from my mounts this Saturday – since that's our biggest day – because I think it's the thing to do. It's what's in my heart right now."A good number of our riders in this room, and throughout the nation, are Cajuns just like me," said Guidry. "Some of them, like Shane Laviolette, whose mother got out just before the levee broke, and Brian Hernandez Jr. are going on the air with Christine later today to help us ask the public for donations. We asked 'Cat' (Arlington's leading trainer and fellow Louisiana native Wayne Catalano) to go on the air with her today, but he's simply too choked up right now.
"You know, New Orleans is part of our heritage," said Guidry. "It's a beautiful city with its own culture, its own food, and its own music. Now the devastation down there is unreal.
"That could have been me and my family in a situation like that," said Guidry. "I just feel as helpless as can be right now. We've got to get something started to help those people and get it started now. "There are also a lot of horsemen here at Arlington who may not have been born there but that make their homes there now, and there are a lot of my fellow riders from down there that our not here at Arlington right now – like Craig Perret. He just got in contact with his father yesterday, but he still has two sisters that are missing. Robby Albarado lost his home down there. It's just gone."This is something. This is a disaster that touches us all," said Guidry, "and there's nothing I can do but start this collection going – but we've all got to do something."