By Rev. Eddie Donnally
Though most of you reading this are involved in Thoroughbred racing in Florida, the name
Roger Blanco is not likely to jump off the page and into your memory.
The name does matter to Jockeys and Jeans and hopefully it will to you. At 23, in 1988, the
Cuban-born jockey who migrated to the US, fell in a race at Monmouth Park. He has since lived
in the Miami area and has been confined to a wheel chair.
Confined and disabled are not terms this writer feels belongs to the some 60 riders the PDJF
currently assists. All, including Blanco were involved in on-track catastrophic accidents which
resulted in paralysis, quadriplegia, brain trauma and spinal injuries. Some 40 are pari or
quadriplegic. Jockey and Jeans was founded by a group of former jockeys who not only wanted
to publicize the dangers inherent in race riding, but to honor the courage of those injured as they
rebuild and maintain their suddenly changed lives.
It takes grit to sit your 112 lb. body atop a half ton, honed to the bone, racehorse, knowing in the
back of your mind that if that horse wants to run over a rail at 40 miles an hour, that is exactly
what will happen. But to have that thrill of race riding and the accompanying identity of being a
small person succeeding in a world of huge athletes snatched away from you forever in a single
brutal moment—and then set about rebuilding your life while sitting in a wheelchair that hardly
reaches a thoroughbred’s belly—requires an even more acute brand of courage.
We started in 2014, when we got together to host a jockeys’ reunion at Tampa Bay Downs,
decided with only six weeks left to use it to raise funds for our fallen brothers and sisters and
raised $23,000 for PDJF. Thanks to track officials who genuinely cared, last year at Indiana
Grand Racing & Casino we raised over $204,000. Clearly, many members of the family that is
racing decided it’s time to make a difference in a lot of human lives.
This year, we were invited to host our third event at Gulfstream Park and it’s set for Sunday,
Feb. 28, beginning at noon. Besides Roger Blanco we will honor injured jockeys Michael
Straight, Ann Von Rosen, Jack Fires, Ted Leggett, Gary Donahue, Rene Douglas and Hall of
Famer, Randy Romero.
At least a dozen other Hall of Fame riders will attend to greet the attendees and encourage their
injured comrades. They include Bill Boland, Walter Blum, Angel Cordero Jr., Pat Day, Sandy
Hawley, Laffit Pincay Jr., Edgar Prado, Jose Santos, John Rotz, Jacinto Vasquez, Jorge
Velasquez and Manuel Ycaza.
The event will feature a rerun of the famous 1962 Preakness Stakes and the first co-appearance at
a charity event by Rotz and Ycaza. Rotz eked out a victory aboard Greek Money, defeating
Ridan and Ycaza who leaned into Rotz near the finish line and then unsuccessfully claimed foul.
The first Breeders’ Cup Classic will also be relived with the first three finishing jockeys, Pat
Day, Laffit Pincay Jr. and Angel Cordero Jr. attending. In what may be a once in a lifetime
opportunity, both groups will sign special race photos to benefit PDJF.
Ycaza has donated for sale at the event the helmet and boots he wore while atop a host of racing
greats, including famed Florida-Bred, Dr. Fager.
We thank, among others, FTOBA and Ocala Breeders Sales for purchasing Gold Sponsorships.
Thanks to Fasig-Tipton we will for the first time sell donated (no guarantee) stallion seasons.
They will be placed in a heavily advertised week-long online auction the week before the event
with the most popular seasons held over for sell at auction at the event.
Already, Adena Springs Stallions, Double Diamond Farm, Ocala Stud and Hartley/DeRenzo
Thoroughbreds have committed top seasons. Jockeys and Jeans is set for the day before the Fasig
Tipton Florida Sale “Under Tack Show” of 2-year-olds in training.
Much attention is given jockeys during the days shortly after their severe injuries. But for the last
28 years, Roger Blanco has gotten up and maneuvered his body into a wheelchair. Don’t you
think it’s time to show up, let him know he’s not forgotten and in essence say, “Hey, I care. I’m
rooting for you, and I want to help?”
Jockeys and Jeans gives you that opportunity.
Note: Anyone with questions or wishing to donate a stallion season can call Rev. Eddie Donnally
at (818) 653-3711 or President Barry Pearl at 717-503-0182. Event tickets are on sale for $50
each on the Gulfstream Park website www.gulfstreampark.com under the racing tab or by
calling 954-457-6201 Thur-Sat. Latest news on Jockeys and Jeans Facebook page.