Derby Week, 1992
It had been a long day for seven-month old Nicholas Roush. After spending the morning at Dawn at the Downs and a full day at the races, I was pretty pooped out, yet the day was not done.
Previously, the Derby custom was to draw the post positions at the Kentucky Derby Museum. The event was open to the public, allowing fans upstairs in the mezzanine area to observe the spectacle. My dad and his buddy Virga planned on ending the day with post selection.
While waiting for the show to unfold in the paddock, legendary jockey Pat Day was talking to former trainer Frank Wright. A fan nearby asked Day if he could take picture with him. A family man, Day pointed to my dad and said, “What you need is a picture of that man and his son.”
My smooth-talking father overheard the conversation and suggested, “Well, you could just take a picture with us.”
Day was more than happy to oblige for a photo with a sleeping Baby Nicholas. He joked, “Somebody told me the other day, ‘Hey Day, QUIT SLEEPING IN THE SADDLE!'” He pointed to me, “Now THAT is sleeping in the saddle.”
That encounter is not what makes this story worth telling. It’s what happened on Saturday.
Breeders’ Cup juvenile winner Arazi was the talk of the Derby, giving few others any chance for victory. Pat Day was saddled with Lil. E Tee, a horse named for his size and sold for only $2,000 as a yearling. Without significant pedigree and a second-place finish in the Arkansas Derby, he was a longshot that would enter the race with 17-1 odds.
After spending all week handicapping the race and debating numerous bets, my mother made the smart one. “You better bet Pat Day after the way he treated you and your son,” she insisted to my father. A woman’s wisdom should never be doubted.
After a clean trip, Pat Day was prepared for one of the greatest upsets in Derby history.
With $10 across the board, it paid out roughly $250. While celebrating my dad told anyone who would listen: “My son’s won more money in one day than I’ve won in 20 years at the Derby.”
It was the Hall of Fame jockey’s first and only Derby victory. You’re welcome, Mr. Day.