By MARY BARCZAK
Gold Standard Staff Writer
This year’s Fort Knox Community National Prayer Breakfast focused on the power of prayer.
The guest speaker for the ceremony was well-known jockey, Pat Day.
Day said he became caught up with the success in his life but eventually began realizing a void.
But it was his “faith in God that got him through the rough times,” said Chaplain (Col.) Donald Wilson.
Day was born in Brush, Colo., in 1953.
His family was of the Lutheran faith.
He was competitive and utilized his diminutive stature in high school to win the wrestling state championship in his weight category. After graduation, he decided to become a professional bull rider.
“It taught me how to fall,” Day said reflecting on his first career move.
However, Day was met with limited success in this field. On the other hand, it did help to introduce him to people who were knowledgeable about horse racing. Soon after, he was able to secure a job on a thoroughbred farm in California.
“I knew nothing about racing,” Day said. “We didn’t have a TV growing up.”
His employer wanted him to learn the business “from the ground up” before he could become a jockey, but he quit after a month. Even with a shaky start, Day found a positive.
“I want to promote to you the value of a relationship (with God),” he said. “I really believe God had his hand on me.”
In 1973 Day began working at Prescott Downs in Arizona, exercising thoroughbred horses and by July he won his first race. The following January he was the leading rider at Turf Paradise in Arizona.
He said people questioned where his talent came from because he did not have a lot riding experience like others. He had these hidden talents that came naturally to him such as how to calm a horse. Day said God blessed him with the abilities to be able ride so well as a novice.
“God was making opportunities to showcase (my) talent,” he said.
Day’s popularity, fame and rank continued to grow. But he soon began to forget what he was doing it all for.
“I was running around like King Solomon trying to find a reason for life,” he said.
Day said he adapted an “assorted lifestyle,” one full of drug and alcohol binges.
“At the end of the day it didn’t matter how successful I was, there was something missing,” he said.
But Day said God found a way back into his heart one evening in the early 80s. Day had traveled to Florida for a race and was staying the night at a hotel before his ride. He flipped through the TV channels before turning in for the night and happened to come across a televangelism program.
At this point in his life, though, he thought faith was only for “women, Christians and wimps.”
Day drifted off to sleep, but not for long. Soon thereafter, he was awakened by a strange force.
“When I woke up,” he said, “I knew that I was not alone in my hotel room.”
The program was at the portion of the show called the altar call, where sinners could come forth to rededicate their lives to Jesus. Day said he vowed right there to start anew. He finally found what he had been missing.
“The whole world had taken on a completely different look to me,” he said. “I had changed from the inside out.”
He said he didn’t realize how much he had changed until he refused a beverage from the flight attendant on the way home.
He said there was a power within him now, stronger than his own, that rejected the offer, something he couldn’t have done previously.
Day then turned his attention to the morality of his career. Horse racing, often accompanied by gambling, became a moral dilemma for him.
He spoke with a racetrack chaplain about his issue and decided to use his fame to spread God’s message.
“There’s power in prayer, folks,” Day said. “I found a new reason to ride—for the Lord.”
About eight years ago, after 32 years of racing, Day retired. He now spends his time sharing the gospel as an ambassador for racetrack chaplaincy and enjoying his family at their home near Louisville.
Maj. Gen. Jeff Smith, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, said Day’s experience is a great example of how “being famous… can’t bring you happiness.”
Smith talked about the importance of the national prayer observance day.
“Congress came together in 1775 to pray for the formation of the nation,” he said. So it is important to stop each year to reflect on what our society was built on—prayer, he added.