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Contact: Graham Ross
JOCKEY GUIDRY GRABS REINS AT ARLINGTON TO FUND KATRINA'S VICTIMS
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. (September 1, 2005) -- Veteran jockey Mark Guidry, Louisiana-born but a longtime leader and senior member of the jockey's room at Arlington Park, "kick started" Arlington Park's own campaign to contribute toward victims of Hurricane Katrina when he arrived for his riding assignments Thursday.
"I've been watching the scenes of the devastation down there on the television like everybody else," said Guidry between riding assignments Thursday, "and when I came into work today I knew that the best way to get the word out about starting a fund to help the people down there was to do it through Arlington Park.
"I talked to Christine Gabriel (Arlington's television personality) when I came to work today, and she's helped get this effort started," said Guidry. "We've got to do something and do it now. All I can do is visualize myself being in a situation like that. Thank goodness, my family is safe and all my people live 20 or 30 miles down the Gulf from those people that are underwater right now, but that could have very easily been me and my loved ones suffering the way those people are suffering right now."
What has been started through Arlington's Horsemen's Bookkeeper is something called the "Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund," and Guidry and Gabriel appeared on the air between races Thursday to call for donations from all racing fans as well all those associated with Arlington Park. All interested parties can contribute through cash or checks made out to the "Hurricane Disaster Relief Fund."
"Within a few days, all those contributions to our own Fund will be turned over to the NTRA or the Red Cross -- or powers that are bigger than us -- to make sure our donations are properly allocated," said Gabriel. "But in the meantime, while the disaster is on everybody's mind, we wanted to get the ball rolling. We're making it easy on everyone to give a donation right here at Arlington Park right now. Immediately after Mark and I concluded our interview this afternoon, a fan walked up to me with a check for $50, so we're on the right track."
"I gave $1,000 this morning," said Guidry, "and I know that several of our riders in the room here today are donating their earnings from their three or four of their mounts today to our cause. I'm going to donate my earnings from my mounts this Saturday -- since that's our biggest day -- because I think it's the thing to do. It's what's in my heart right now.
"A good number of our riders in this room, and throughout the nation, are Cajuns just like me," said Guidry. "Some of them -- like Shane Laviolette, whose mother got out just before the levee broke, and Brian Hernandez Jr. -- are going on the air with Christine later today to help us ask the public for donations. We asked 'Cat' (Arlington's leading trainer and fellow Louisiana native Wayne Catalano) to go on the air with her today, but he's simply too choked up right now.
"You know, New Orleans is part of our heritage," said Guidry, speaking of his fellow Louisiana-born horsemen. "It's a beautiful city, with its own culture, its own food, and its own music. Now, the devastation down there is unreal. There are those that are now dead, and those that are presumed dead. They say there are houses down there with big 'X's on the door, meaning everyone inside is dead because they couldn't get out in time. They had no place to go.
"That could have been me and my family in a situation like that," said Guidry. "I just feel as helpless as can be right now. We've got to get something started to help those people and get it started now. Personally, looking at the pictures on the television, I think that all that is going to be left of New Orleans after this is all over is our memories.
"There are also a lot of horsemen here at Arlington who may not have been born there but that make their homes there now, and there are a lot of my fellow riders from down there that are not here at Arlington right now, like Craig Perret. He just got in contact with his father yesterday, but he still has two sisters that are missing. Robby Albarado lost his home down there. It's just gone.
"This is something, this is a disaster that touches us all," said Guidry, "and there's nothing I can do but start this collection going; but we've all got to do something."
Arlington Park -- the Chicago area's premier Thoroughbred racetrack located in Arlington Heights, Ill. -- is running a 94-day meet in 2005 from Friday, May 13 through Sunday, Sept. 18. Arlington Park, whose parent company is Churchill Downs Incorporated (Nasdaq: CHDN), also operates eight off-track, simulcast-wagering facilities: Trackside Arlington Park (Arlington Heights), Trackside Quad City Downs (East Moline), Trackside Chicago, Trackside McHenry, Trackside Rockford, Trackside South Beloit, Trackside Waukegan and Lucky's featuring Trackside OTB in South Elgin. Information on Arlington Park can be found online at www.arlingtonpark.com.
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