Pat Day

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Pat Day
Born (1953-10-13) October 13, 1953 (age 69)
Brush, Colorado, United States
Career wins8,803[1]
Major racing wins
American Classics wins:
Kentucky Derby (1992)
Preakness Stakes
(1985, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996)
Belmont Stakes (1989, 1994, 2000)

Breeders' Cup wins:
Breeders' Cup Classic
(1984, 1990, 1998, 1999)
Breeders' Cup Distaff (1986, 1991, 2001)
Breeders' Cup Juvenile (1994, 1997)
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (1987, 1994)
Breeders' Cup Turf (1987)

Major Stakes Wins

International race wins:
Canadian Triple Crown (1991)
Canadian International Stakes (1991, 1995)
Woodbine Mile (1991, 2002)
Racing awards
Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey
(1984, 1986, 1987, 1991)
U.S. Champion Jockey by wins
(1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1990, 1991)
U.S. Champion Jockey by earnings
(1999, 2000)
George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award (1985)
Mike Venezia Memorial Award (1995)
Big Sport of Turfdom Award (2005)
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (1991)
Fair Grounds Racing Hall of Fame (1992)
Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame (1999)
Pat Day Mile Stakes at Churchill Downs
Statue at Churchill Downs
Significant horses
Easy Goer, Awesome Again, Azeri, Cat Thief, Dance Smartly, Favorite Trick, Heavenly Prize, Lil E. Tee, Java Gold, Lady's Secret, Louis Quatorze, Paradise Creek, Seeking the Gold, Sky Classic, Summer Squall, Tabasco Cat, Tank's Prospect, Theatrical, Timber Country, Unbridled, Wild Again

Patrick Alan "Pat" Day (born October 13, 1953, in Brush, Colorado) is a retired American jockey. He is a four-time winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.[2] Day won nine Triple Crown races and 12 Breeders' Cup races. He was once the leader for career Breeders' Cup wins though he was later surpassed as the events were expanded after he retired.

Pat Day retired in 2005 with 8,803 wins (ranked fourth all-time) and as the all-time leading jockey in money earned.[3] He was a dominant rider on the Kentucky riding circuit and holds all of the career riding records at Churchill Downs and Keeneland.[4][5][6] Day's signature wins include winning the inaugural $3 million Breeders' Cup Classic in 1984 aboard Wild Again[7] and his partnership with Easy Goer in a rivalry with Sunday Silence.[8]


Pat Day was known for being a patient rider with gentle hands and for not using a horse more than he had to, but was sometimes criticized for waiting too long to make his move.[9] Because Day often came with late runs in big spots and had a reputation for saving horse for the stretch[10] he was given the nickname Patient Pat.[11][12][13] As Pat Forde, a reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal, wrote in 1995, "He is so patient he could watch a faucet drip for days".[14] Day was also strong at taking horses to the lead as he did on Louis Quatorze in his 1996 Preakness victory and on Commendable in his 2000 Belmont Stakes win.[15][16]

Day's riding style attracted considerable controversy over the years. Barry Irwin wrote in 2016 that he "drove many a captain of industry, hard-boot trainer and horseplayer to the brink of rage."[17] D. Wayne Lukas, who won several Triple Crown races with Pat Day, once said "I'm only as good as Pat Day's rides."[18] He is still criticized for costing Easy Goer a potential victory in the 1989 Preakness Stakes.[19] Day said that Easy Goer was the best horse he ever rode.[20] In 2016, he said, "As I re-run that race in my mind, I chastise myself pretty good because I feel I didn’t ride the best race of my career... Still, it was a great, great race. People still rave to me about the Preakness. They say it was the race of the century. I agree, except for the official order of finish."[8]

Riding career[edit]

Day learned to ride from his father, who owned a car repair shop in the ranching community of Brush, Colorado.[21] "He taught me basic horsemanship that has been my foundation," Day said in a 1991 interview. "That has helped me tremendously in a roundabout way – being able to understand the temperament of the horse, and adjusting to get along with that." Day participated in rodeo events before beginning his jockey career in 1973 at Prescott Downs, a small racetrack in Arizona. He rode his first winner, Forblunged, on July 29, 1973. He became the leading jockey at Turf Paradise before relocating to Chicago, where he became the leading jockey at Hawthorne and Sportsman's Park. In 1976, he moved to the New York riding circuit.[22][7] He recorded his first major victory that year in the Jockey Club Gold Cup aboard longshot Great Contractor.[23]

Day was the leading jockey by number of wins in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1990, 1991.[22][7] The first win in 1982 came only after Day chartered a plane on December 31 to Delta Downs, where he won two races on the evening card to surpass Angel Cordero Jr.'s tally by one.[21]

Day rode winners of American Triple Crown races nine times, ranking him behind Eddie Arcaro's 17 wins in Triple Crown races as well as Bill Shoemaker's 11, while tied with Gary Stevens, Bill Hartack and Earl Sande's 9 each. However, Day had a comparatively poor Kentucky Derby record with only one win in twenty two tries.[24] Some of Day's losses on top horses in the Kentucky Derby included Easy Goer, Forty Niner, Summer Squall, Demon's Begone, Corporate Report, Tabasco Cat, Timber Country, Favorite Trick, Ten Most Wanted and Menifee, who finished second behind Charismatic in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.[25] He had been the regular rider of 1990 Derby winner Unbridled but chose to ride Summer Squall in that race instead.[26] Pat Day's first and only Kentucky Derby victory was in 1992 aboard longshot Lil E. Tee. On the day of that race, future Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic winner A.P. Indy was forced to scratch from the race due to a foot injury. Arazi, the American Champion Two-Year-Old Colt and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, became the heavy favorite. Day rated behind Arazi in tenth place, hoping to follow his move and take second place. But when asked for run, Lil E. Tee responded by sweeping past Arazi for the win. "To say the least, it was very satisfying," said Day.[27]

In 1991, Pat Day won the Canadian Triple Crown and the Breeders' Cup Distaff aboard the future Hall of Fame filly Dance Smartly. He is the only jockey to have ridden at least one mount in each of the first 20 Breeders' Cups, and at one point was the all-time leader in Breeders' Cup winners, with 12.[28][29]

Day made his base in Kentucky, where he rode at Churchill Downs and Keeneland in the spring and fall. In the winter, he originally rode at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas, switching in the mid-1990s to Gulfstream Park. In the summer, he originally rode at Arlington Park, later switching to Saratoga. With the change in circuits, Day's number of wins decreased but his earnings increased. Day won his first earnings title in 1999,[7] followed by another win in 2000 in a close battle with Jerry Bailey. Day finished 2000 with his mounts earning $17,479,838 in purses (recording 267 wins from 1,219 starts). Bailey finished with $17,468,690 in earnings.[30]

Triple Crown top three finishes[edit]

Day recorded nine wins in the American Triple Crown plus ten second-place finishes and four thirds.[1]

Breeders' Cup wins[edit]

Day won twelve Breeders' Cup races.[1]

Breeders' Cup Classic
Breeders' Cup Distaff
Breeders' Cup Turf
Breeders' Cup Juvenile
Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies


Day is the all-time leading rider at Churchill Downs and Keeneland Race Course, the two largest tracks in his adopted home state of Kentucky. At Churchill Downs, he won 2,481 races including 155 stakes race wins, and earned 15 riding titles at the spring meeting plus 19 at the fall meeting. At Keeneland, he recorded 918 wins, 95 of which were in stakes races, and earned 22 leading rider titles.[4][5] He also earned a record twelve jockey titles at Oaklawn Park.[7]

On June 20, 1984, Day set a Churchill Downs record for the most wins on a single card when he won seven of eight races in which he rode. The record was tied in 2008 by Julien Leparoux.[31] In 1989, he set a North American record when he won eight of nine mounts in a single day at Arlington Park.[22]


Statue of Day at Churchill Downs

Day earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey in 1984, 1986, 1987 and 1991. In 1991, he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. In 2006, a statue of him celebrating his win in the Kentucky Derby was unveiled at Churchill Downs.[32] In 2015, Churchill Downs renamed the Derby Trial in his honor as the Pat Day Mile.[33]

Day also received the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award in 1985, given annually to a North American jockey who demonstrates the highest standards of professional and personal conduct.[34] In 1995, he was voted the Mike Venezia Memorial Award, which honors "extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship".[35] He received the Big Sport of Turfdom Award for 2005 in acknowledgement of the way he worked with the media to enhance coverage of the sport.[36]

Religion and retirement[edit]

Early in his career, he had serious substance abuse problems with both drugs and alcohol, but became a born-again Christian in the early 1980s.[22] He has been involved with the Race Track Chaplaincy of America since his conversion, and has served the racing industry's representative on the board of that organization.[3]

After undergoing hip surgery that forced him to miss the Derby for the first time in 21 years, Day announced his retirement on August 3, 2005.[3] He subsequently devoted himself to the Kentucky Race Track Chaplaincy and helped to establish a chapel at Churchill Downs that services backstretch workers. He hosts an annual Race For Grace during Kentucky Derby week to raise money for the chaplaincy, and also travels across America to talk about how his faith and career intertwine. Sheila, his wife since 1979, runs a charity to help single mothers in the Louisville area.[37]

In 2016, Kentucky Governor Bevin appointed Day to the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.[38][39]

Year-end charts[edit]

National List for Jockeys Rankings
Year Earnings Wins
2000 1 11
2001 3 19
2002 4 14
2003 6 20
2004 11 54


  1. ^ a b c "Equibase profile". Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  2. ^ "ASHOF Inductees" (PDF). Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. 2018-01-01. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
  3. ^ a b c "Hall of Famer Day Retires; To Assist With Racetrack Chaplaincy Program". Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Churchill Downs To Salute Pat Day Nov. 12". Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Keeneland to Salute Hall of Fame Jockey Pat Day". Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  6. ^ Eisenberg, John (1996). The Longest Shot. John Eisenberg. ISBN 9780813148779. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e McGee, Marty. "Day shares decades of memories". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Racing's Unforgettable Rivalries: Sunday Silence and Easy Goer". Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  9. ^ Reed, William (May 27, 1996). "NIGHT AND DAY". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  10. ^ Faour, Fred (June 7, 2001). "Dollar Bill has a tough time despite Day Even with Day aboard, talented Dollar Bill has a tough time". Houston Chronicle.
  11. ^ Privman, Jay (May 3, 1992). "Kentucky Derby: Day Makes the Right Choice : Jockey: The man who passed up rides on Alysheba and Unbridled gets first Derby victory in 10 tries". Los Angeles Times.
  12. ^ Drape, Joe (August 25, 2003). "Horse Racing: Racing Analysis". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Diamos, Jason (August 9, 2002). "HORSE RACING". The New York Times.
  14. ^ LaMarra, Tom (April 23, 2014). "Day by Day". Bloodhorse. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  15. ^ Christine, Bill (November 8, 1989). "Horse Racing: Maybe It's Time Easy Goer Gets a Different Rider". Los Angeles Times.
  16. ^ Moran, Paul (September 19, 1989). "Easy Goer Shows He Won't Easily Be Beaten". Los Angeles Times.
  17. ^ Irwin, Barry (2016). Derby Innovator: The Making of Animal Kingdom. ISBN 9781514476246.
  18. ^ Greene, Jerry (May 19, 1995). "DERBY NO YARDSTICK THIS TIME". Orlando Sentinel.
  19. ^ Sapochetti, John (20 July 2019). "Easy Goer's greatness often overlooked". Boston Herald. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  20. ^ Van Dyke, Grace (October 21, 2013). "A Blessed Life: Pat Day on making peace with his sport & his faith". Horse Nation.
  21. ^ a b LaMarra, Tom. "Day By Day". Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  22. ^ a b c d Milbert, Neil. "PAT DAY'S NUMBERS NOT WHOLE STORY". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  23. ^ Cady, Steve (24 October 1976). "Great Contractor First in Gold Cup". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  24. ^ McNamara, Ed (May 3, 2017). "Pat Day's career was complete when he finally won Kentucky Derby". Newsday. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
  25. ^ Guild, The Jockeys' (1999). The History of Race Riding and the Jockeys' Guild. Turner Publishing Company - The Jockeys' Guild. ISBN 9781563114564. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  26. ^ Crist, Steven (6 May 1990). "Unbridled Wins the Derby in an Upset". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  27. ^ "LOOKING BACK: Pat Day's unlikely Kentucky Derby win turns 25". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  28. ^ "Day, Bailey Elbow for BC Riding Records". Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  29. ^ "Leading Breeders' Cup Jockey Stats". Breeders' Cup. October 21, 2013. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
  30. ^ "Day Edges Bailey For Jockeys' Title". Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  31. ^ "Leparoux Wins 7 at Churchill; Ties Day". Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  32. ^ "Churchill Unveils Statue of Pat Day". Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  33. ^ "Churchill Moves Derby Trial, Now Pat Day Mile". Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  34. ^ "George Woolf Award". Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  35. ^ "Migliore Wins 2003 Mike Venezia Award". Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  36. ^ "Pat Day to Receive 'Big Sport of Turfdom' Award". Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  37. ^ Puckett, Jeffrey Lee. "For Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Pat Day, it's his life after the win that means most". The Courier-Journal. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  38. ^ "Gov. Bevin Appoints 3 Members to Horse Racing Commission". The Laner Report. June 3, 2016.
  39. ^ "Pat Day" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 21, 2016. Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  40. ^ "Pat Day | Top 100 Rankings (Since 2000)". Equibase.

External links[edit]

Preceded by Jockeys' Guild President
Succeeded by
Tomey Jean Swan