PDJF Scores Big in Fundraisers at Canterbury Park, Ruidoso Downs

A total of $335,000 was raised for the Permanently Distabled Jockeys Fund at the two tracks.

Edited press releases

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Triple Crown-winning jockey Mike Smith pose in the winner's circle at Ruidoso Downs Racetrack. PHOTO: Gay Harris

More than $25,000 was raised for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund (PDJF) through poster sales on Sunday, and the wagering handle for last weekend’s three days of trials to the $1 million Rainbow Futurity and Rainbow Derby was up 27 percent at Ruidoso Downs.

New Mexico native and Triple Crown-winning jockey Mike Smith was at the track for the "Mike Smith Victory Celebration" on Sunday. Smith signed posters of Justify completing the Triple Crown with the Belmont Stakes win with Smith aboard. Autographed posters and other significant contributions raised $21,352 while unsigned posters added $3,740. All proceeds go to the PDJF.

Posters will be available for the remainder of the meet in the gift shop with proceeds going to the PDJF.

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez presented Smith with a New Mexico flag and a proclamation declaring that July 8 will always be Mike Smith Day in New Mexico. Congressman Steve Pearce gave Smith a U.S. flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol. New Mexico State Senate President pro tempore Mary Kay Papen presented Smith with a Senate Memorial.

Ruidoso Downs also had a successful weekend at the wagering windows for the three days, as handle reached $2,337,542, an increase of over 27 percent for last year’s comparable racing week.

"Good trial racing plus Mike Smith Day equal success, and we are thankful for the fans and horsemen that made a memorable weekend," Ruidoso Downs’ president and general manager Jeff True said. "Governor Martinez, Congressman Pearce, and Senator Papen made it official with their proclamations and presence. We now look towards the second half of our summer race meeting."

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Also, results for the June 23 Jockeys and Jeans Fundraiser at Canterbury Park are in, and a group of former jockeys raised $310,000, easily topping the record $254,000 raised at Parx Racing near Philadelphia last year. The total puts the amount raised by the group to well over $1 million.

“Jockeys and Jeans is a true representation of jockeys helping jockeys,” said Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund board president Nancy LaSala. “We thank the former jockeys who came together to do something to help raise awareness and funds for the PDJF, as well as the Hall of Fame jockeys who travel across the country and the active riders at each host track.

"All are there to help the fallen riders," she added. "We are so appreciative of the tracks who have hosted the event: Tampa Bay Downs, Indiana Grand, Gulfstream Park, Parx Racing and Canterbury Park. Without their support this would not have happened.”

The PDJF makes monthly payments of $1,000 to 60 former jockeys who have suffered catastrophic racing accidents, with 40 either pari or quadriplegics. Most of the remainder suffered severe brain injuries. An all-volunteer group, Jockeys and Jeans came together for a jockey reunion at Tampa Bay Downs in early 2014 and decided to make it into a fundraiser and donate all proceeds to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund.

President Barry Pearl said this year's sold out event is likely the richest single fundraiser in the history of Thoroughbred racing.

“While each of our nine committee members puts in a massive amount of work and Hall of Fame riders make the time to show up and take part, it is about more than us,” Pearl said. “It's about all those in the community of horse racing who stepped up to prove they genuinely care about former jockeys whose lives were changed forever in a split second and are now riding wheelchairs instead of horses.

"And Canterbury Park just took the lead among tracks that care," he added. "Randy Sampson and the team there were as innovative as they were determined to make this event a success.”

The track solicited event sponsors and held a poker and golf tournament in which Hall of Fame riders participated. Thirteen attended to honor six permanently disabled jockeys. Edgar Prado flew from his Maryland base to compete with other successful riders and six of the track's past leading riders in the first All-Star Jockey Challenge.

Prado, who leads the eight active Hall of Fame riders in victories with over 7,000, got up in the final stride to win aboard Superstar Bea. Barry Butzow, the horse's co-owner, donated his share of the purse, bringing the total raised in the race to $19,000.

“Canterbury Park and our horsemen were honored to host Jockeys and Jeans and very  pleased with the results,” said track president and CEO, Randy Sampson. “By combining the fundraiser with our Stars of the North Racing Festival, we were able to exceed $2 million in handle on our live races, nearly a record. More importantly, we raised a lot of money for a great cause and our fans had the opportunity to meet an amazing group of Hall of Fame jockeys who came to support their fallen brothers and sisters.”

Jockeys and Jeans is officially announcing that its 2019 annual fundraiser is set for Santa Anita. In 2020, it will move to Churchill Downs.

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