Winner Day had a Lil wait before his ultimate race

May 03, 1992|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Pat Day has ridden some great horses and won many of this country's major stakes races, including two Preaknesses.

But until yesterday, a win in America's greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, had eluded him.

He was fond of saying, "I believe there's a Derby out there somewhere with my name on it. Maybe more than one."

When his number came up, it was on a horse, Lil E. Tee, that not many thought had much of a chance.

Day had missed in the Derby from 1988 to 1990 on three outstanding horses -- Forty Niner, Easy Goer and Summer Squall. Each finished second.

But yesterday it was a 16-1 long shot, who had just been beaten in the second-rate Arkansas Derby, that finally gave him the coveted win.

No one knows the track at Churchill Downs better than Day.

The 38-year-old jockey is the track's all-time leading rider, with 1,092 victories through 1991. He scored his 5,000th career win at Churchill on Thanksgiving Day of 1990.

Last year, Day completed his greatest year of riding when he won a record 60 stakes races. He also won his fourth Eclipse Award as the country's leading jockey and his sixth Breeders' Cup victory, tying him with Laffit Pincay Jr. for the most Breeders' Cup wins.

Last year, Day's 430 winners led the nation and netted purse earnings of $14,400,348, second to Chris McCarron's $14,441,083.

Yesterday, Day was characteristically humble. He said he had gotten Lil E. Tee beaten in the Arkansas Derby, when he finished second to Pine Bluff. "I worked him two seconds slow before the race," he said. "It was not what Mr. Whiting wanted, and I think it cost us the race."

But Day was in the right place at the right time yesterday.

"It [the Derby win] was all in God's good time," he said. "I praise God for the ability that got me here. Praise Jesus and hallelujah."

Day said that his visit to a children's hospital on Friday put the victory into proper prospective.

"I'm not taking anything away from the Derby and from the feeling I am feeling right now," he said. "But you get to the point where you put an awful lot of importance on a horse race and then you go down there and see kids fighting for their lives, anywhere from a couple of months old to 20 years old, looking for a bone marrow transplant and fighting the pain. It really helps you get your priorities back in line."

A Day at the Derby

K?

How Pat Day's mounts have finished in the Kentucky Derby:

Year.. ..Horse.. .. .. .. .. Finish

1982.. ..Music Leader.. .. .. .. 15

1984.. ..Vaniandingham.. .. .. ..16

1985.. ..Irish Fighter.. .. .. ..11

1986.. ..Rampage .. .. .. .. .. ..4

..Demons Begone.. .. .. ..17*

1988.. ..Forty Niner.. .. .. .. ..2

1989.. ..Easy Goer.. .. .. .. .. .2

..Summer Squall.. .. .. .. 2

1991.. ..Corporate Report.. .. .. 9

1992.. ..Lil E. Tee.. .. .. .. .. 1

*Demons Begone pulled up.. .. .. ..

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