Pat Day: Faith in the Winner's Circle
By Shannon Woodland and Scott Ross
The 700 Club
Scott Ross [reporting]: An event since 1875, the Kentucky Derby is the first jewel in the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Horse Racing. Who better to share the thrill of victory with us than the 1992 Kentucky Derby winning jockey Pat Day.
Pat Day: This is the place to be after the eighth race on the first Saturday in May here at Churchill Downs.
Ross: How many times did you stand in this winner’s circle?
Day: I’m sorry to say only once. They only use this winner’s circle for the Kentucky Derby. I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in that storied race 22 times, but was only blessed with that victory on one occasion. That was in 1992 on a horse called Lil' E Tee.
Ross: Wow. At that moment, was that it? Where do you go from there?
Day: They say about this race [that] the only thing better than winning it once is winning it twice. So after winning it once, I pursued even harder, tried even harder, if that is even possible, to win it again. It’s the cornerstone of American racing.
Ross [reporting]: Raised in a small farming community, Pat wanted to be a professional bull rider after he graduated from high school.
Day: I pursued that with a limited amount of success. But in the course of my travels, I met a number of people who suggested that because of my small size and competitive nature, maybe I could be a jockey.
Ross: Your first win -- do you remember it?
Day: Absolutely, like yesterday. A horse called Foreblunged... Last day of the race, July 29, 1973, at Prescott Downs, the purse was a staggering $600. My 10 percent of the winner’s share of that was a whopping $36, and I didn’t think it could get any better than that.
Ross [reporting]: Pat’s career victories number 8,803. He’s fourth on the all-time win list. But he’s No.1 in the amount of earnings in purses – close to 300 million.
Day: I need to interject right here. Had it not been for me turning my life over to the Lord, inviting Christ into my heart on January of 1984, I would have self-destructed.
Ross: You got into drugs?
Day: When I started racing, having so much success so quickly, it gave me a real arrogance. I was not a real nice guy. Contrary to the way my folks had raised me, the foundation had been laid, but I was way off base. In my opinion, the world revolved around Pat Day.
Ross: How did God encounter you then? How did He turn you around?
Day: In 1982 I found myself to be leading rider in the country, and I thought in the back of my mind that once I reach that pinnacle of success that would certainly be the answer.
Ross [reporting]: He won the title in 1982, and Pat said the first two weeks of 1983 were a blur.
Day: When I came out of this drug and alcohol induced stupor, I took a little personal inventory. I realized it’s not satisfying, gratifying or long-lasting. The fleeting feeling of having succeeded was gone. Everyone was rocking and rolling into 1983; '82 was history.
Ross [reporting]: In 1983, Pat was a leading rider again – experiencing the same lack of satisfaction. In January 1984, Pat boarded a place for Miami, Florida, where he’d race the next day.
Day: I got into my hotel room late in the evening and turned the TV set on.
Ross [reporting]: Who Pat saw was a TV preacher and what the preacher was talking about Pat had no interest in.
Day: I didn’t think or believe that anything he was saying from the pulpit was what I wanted or needed. I was a believer. I had been confirmed in the Lutheran faith when I was 11 or 12 years old. I flipped through the channels, nothing got my attention, and turned off the TV and went to bed.
Ross [reporting]: Pat awoke thinking he’d slept for 7 or 8 hours. But as soon as he turned on the TV set he realized he’d been asleep for only a few minutes. Now the TV preacher was asking people to give their lives to Jesus Christ.
Day: I recognized that the presence in the room with me was the spirit of the living God. This was my opportunity. This was my personal alter call. It was almost like God was saying, "I’ve been with you. I've watched over you. I've protected you. I’ve blessed you. But now you commit to Me or I'll take my hand off of you." I just fell on the floor, wept, cried and asked Christ into my life.
Ross: How did the industry take that? Your co-workers, co-jockeys, owners and managers... This is a big deal?
Day: They were enthused by what I brought to the table at that point. I was focused. I had been given the talent and ability. The opportunities He was making available I was treating them with total disregard and disrespect. I was coming out here and winning races left and right, but I was not focused. Now I ’m focused.
Ross: So you went on to a series of wins that are unprecedented in the racing industry, didn’t you?
Day: I’m the leading rider in the country for the amount of money won. By that I mean, by the amount of money that the horses I have ridden have earned.
Ross [reporting]: An inductee into the Racing Hall of Fame, Pat retired in 2005 after 32 years of racing. Today he’s an industry spokesman for the Race Track Chaplaincy of America, and he supports the work being done on the backside of horse tracks. When it comes to the kentucky Derby, Pat pines sentimental.
Day: Immediately after the Kentucky Derby, I lifted my hands up, and I was praising God for again allowing me the thrill of being in the winner’s circle with Lil' E Tee, Mr. Partee, Mr. Whiting, family and friends. It’s a joyous occasion, and I couldn’t help myself. I lifted my hands to the heavens and was praising God. Of course this being Churchill Downs; the Kentucky Derby being the race that it is; being the greatest experience I've ever had in racing, and my love and trust in the Lord, this had to be it.
Ross: So even after Pat Day is gone on to be with Jesus, you’re still going to be here worshipping God.
Day: Amen. "All things work for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose." Thank you, Jesus. All in God’s good time. There in is the joy and the peace and the contentment that ultimately we’re all looking for -- it’s found in the relationship.
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