08/12/2005 12:00AM

Letters to the editor


Human touch underscored Day's greatness

After the retirement of Pat Day, the rider, ("Pat Day calls it a career," Aug. 5), I feel it appropriate to share a brief, but representative, anecdote of Pat Day, the man.

Just after the 2004 Kentucky Derby, I saw a mud-splattered and disheveled Day returning to the jockeys' room at Churchill Downs after being soundly trounced in the world's most famous, most coveted, and most scrutinized horse race. Before he reached the entrance, Day noticed an old man in a wheelchair who was wearing a T-shirt that read "Today is my 90th birthday, and this is my first Derby." Upon reading the man's shirt, Day, without hesitation, jumped over a four-foot fence that separated him from the elderly birthday "boy."

Day then proceeded to shake the man's hand, congratulate him on reaching this milestone, and spent the next 10 minutes talking with him about racing, their respective families, and what is really important in life. At the end, Day wished the man good health and many happy returns, and then he deftly jumped back over the fence to wash the mud off of his face. In retrospect, Day's leap over a four-foot fence was probably not the best idea for a 50-year-old professional athlete with a career-threatening hip malady. But that did not stop him from doing what he intuitively felt was the right thing to do on an old man's special day.

The joyous, lingering smile on the old man's face long after Day said good-bye was undeniable proof that he had just been given the perfect birthday gift. Further enhancing Day's act in my mind, this entire episode was witnessed by only a handful of people, totally out of the presence of the seemingly omnipresent Derby media.

After watching Day ride for more than 25 years, this act of kindness, humanity, and selflessness remains my most vivid memory of him. While I sometimes questioned Day's strategies on the racetrack, (Menifee's Kentucky Derby and Easy Goer's Breeders' Cup Classic come to mind) I will always be an outspoken and avid fan of Pat Day, the man.

Lawrence Smith
Jackson, N.J.

Haskell Day calls had major-league ring

As a fellow race announcer, I want to compliment Larry Collmus for his tremendous race calls on Haskell Day at Monmouth Park.

His clarity, smooth calls, and ability to bring excitement into a race at the critical points were certainly evident on Haskell Day. While Collmus is overshadowed by some bigger names in the announcing profession, he displayed his talents and professionalism calling the Haskell and the undercard stakes races. Larry's ability to create excitement without overshadowing the race itself is an ingredient that makes him one of the top Thoroughbred announcers in our profession.

Larry began getting the recognition he has deserved for many years when he filled in for Tom Durkin at Aqueduct earlier this year. I'm sure he will keep up the great work.

Ed Burgart
Cypress, Calif.

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