This Kentucky Derby weekend marks a special anniversary for Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day.
It was 25 years ago that Day scored his first — and only — Derby win. Day rode Lil E. Tee, a 16-to-1 longshot, to victory in 1992.
He calls it the highlight of his 32-year racing career.
“When I went to the lead, it was a feeling that started way down in the pit of my stomach and continued to grow as we got closer to the finish line,” Day said. “When we cross the finish line, in front, that feeling was just second to none.”
The victory also produced what’s become an iconic photograph of Day. After dismounting the horse, Day, a born-again Christian, raised both arms and looked to the sky in gratitude. The image, captured by a Courier-Journal photographer, was the model for a statue of Day that stands in the Churchill Downs paddock area.
Day rode in more than 20 Kentucky Derbys. He retired from racing in 2005. He remains Churchill Downs’ winningest jockey.
“I believed that there was a Derby somewhere out there with my name on it,” Day said. “If it had never come to pass, I was leaving that in the hands of the Lord. Just the fact that he allowed me the privilege, the blessing of having experienced that, I just couldn’t stop thanking him.”