Pat Day

Hall of Fame Jockey, Churchill Downs Chaplain

One of the most accomplished and revered names in Thoroughbred racing. Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day enjoyed a riding career spanning 30 years with more than 8800 winning races, accumulating an all-time North American earnings record of 298 million. Now he is a Chaplain for Kentucky race tracks including Churchill Downs.

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Louisville, KY

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Patrick Alan "Pat" Day was born in Brush, Colorado on October 13, 1953.  Early on, Day recognized he loved sports and had a very competitive nature.  Despite his small and wiry physique, Day found a way to indulge his affinity for athletics and competition by joining his high school's wrestling program, where he won the state championship in his weight category.  After high school, his daredevil nature and natural abilities led him to try his hand at rodeo bull riding on the local circuit.  It was - by his own admission - not a successful career move. 

His dreams took him in a different and immensely profitable direction when he started riding thoroughbreds, chalking up his first win in 1973 at Prescott Downs, Arizona.  Unhampered by the weight issues with which so many jockeys struggle, Day quickly climbed the ranks in the Midwest. By the late 70's he was at the top of the national standings and began his run as leading rider at Churchill Downs, one that may never be equaled.  However, the flagrant excesses of fame and fortune threatened his personal life and reputation on and off the track. 

Day has often spoken of the night in the early 80's when his life changed forever. Alone and sleeping fitfully in a Florida hotel room, feeling emotionally empty and physically burnt up,  he awakened to a televangelism program running in the early hours.  The message found its mark, and Day left that hotel a changed, he  says "born again,"  man.  His newfound Christian faith profoundly altered his personal life and outlook and enhanced his natural professionalism and skill on the track.

His racing career over the next three decades reads like a jockey’s textbook on success.  Day won the heralded Kentucky Derby with longshot Lil E. Tee in 1992 - one of his nine winning individual Triple Crown winning mounts, that include such greats as Summer Squall, Tank's Prospect and Louis Quatorze. He is the top money winning jockey in Breeders Cup history, riding Unbridled, Wild Again, Cat Thief, and Awsome Again to wins in the Breeders Cup Classic and is the only jockey to have ridden in the first 21 years of the event.  His list of champion mounts comprise Canadian Triple Crown winner Dance Smartly, Flanders, Tabasco Cat, With Anticipation, and 1986 Horse of the Year, Lady's Secret.  His personal pick for the best horse he ever rode was Easy Goer, a son of Alydar, who faced his own version of Affirmed in Charlie Whittingham's Sunday Silence. The two rivals squared off in the '89 Triple Crown, with Sunday Silence winning the Derby and the Preakness and Easy Goer turning the tables in the Belmont Stakes with a dominating 14 length victory.

In 2005, Day had hip surgery that forced him to miss the Derby for the first time in 21 years. After a brief return to racing, Day did some personal soul searching at a cabin retreat and made the decision to retire and devote himself  to his spiritual calling.  On August 3, 2005, Day traded in his tack for a new position as industry representative and ambassador for the Racetrack Chaplaincy.  He now divides his time enjoying his family and  home near Louisville, Kentucky and spreading the Gospel at tracks, colleges, and churches worldwide.  Day has not lost his competitive edge, however, as in October 2008 he returned to Santa Anita Park to ride in the widely anticipated "Legends" race, reuniting him with his old rivals and friends among the jockeys' retired elite.

Day's professional honors include four Eclipse Awards and induction into the National Museum of  Racing's Hall of Fame in 1991. He won the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1985 and the Mike Venizia Memorial Award in 1995 for “extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship.”  His superlative career reflects his prodigious success, tempered with humility, compassion, and honor at the highest level of the game.


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