By Laura Azahar–

A pink out at Churchill Downs will promote a healthier backside at the track. The Downs will be hosting the 5th Annual Horses and Hope Race Day on Nov. 18, 2012.

First Lady Jane Beshear and the Kentucky Cancer Program, KCP, will be hosting a pink out at the race track to honor breast cancer survivors and their families. This event will raise funds for the Horses and Hope initiative and to continue helping employees of the race tracks in Kentucky to be healthy.

“These individuals are the backbone of our signature industry,” Beshear said on the Horses and Hope website, “And I am committed to giving back to the people that help to make Kentucky the horse capital of the world.”

The event is sold out already, as it has been for the previous five years. Connie Sorrell, Louisville KCP director, said that it is so successful every year because cancer survivors like to be with other survivors.

This year, Horses and Hope Race Day at the Downs will be featuring local fashion designer and 2012 Project Runway contender, Gunnar Deatherage, Kentucky Rep. Joni Jenkins and James Graham Brown Cancer Center Ambassador Jessica Rizzo. The celebrities will be on hand to talk to participants.

Horses and Hope began in 2008, as an awareness and educational campaign for the over 80,000 equine employees throughout the state of Kentucky, many who do not have insurance or are underinsured. Beshear’s passion for horses led her to start the event in association with KCP. Today, they are joined by the Pink Stable, a committee of the commonwealth horse owners, riders, trainers, farm owners, jockeys and others.

Throughout the year, Horses and Hope hold race days and events to provide breast cancer education and mammography screening to horse industry workers and their families. The events are not only held at the Downs, but also at Ellis Park, Keeneland and Turfway Park. On Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, KCP will deliver those services to the backside employees of Churchill Downs.

Maribel Gonzales just transferred to Churchill Downs with her husband, Darío García, and as new members of the backside community, they are already aware of Horses and Hope.

“There are women who don’t even know what they have until it’s too late,” García said. “They need to be more open to receive the help.”

On Nov. 12, Gonzales plans to attend. “It’s a good event, I just got here, but it’s important,” she said.

The promotion of better health awareness among the behind-the-scenes workers is the ultimate goal of this initiation.
“Our goal is to serve the horse industry,” said Sorrell.

In five years, Horses and Hope has screened over 400 women, and found cancer in two employees. Overall, the campaign has educated over 500,000 employees and racetrack fans.

The most noticeable change from this campaign has been seen in the relationship KCP has developed with employees who are sometimes reluctant to seek assistance. Sorrell said, “We have to build that long-term relationship with the backside in order to be successful.”

Tickets were sold for $28 each for adults and $18 for children 12 and under. The tickets included track admission, a daily racing program, a luncheon buffet, and seating on Millionaires Row. Parking will be free at Gate 10.

Gates will open at 11:30 a.m. The luncheon buffet will be from 11:30 to 3:00 p.m. The Horses and Hope program will begin at 1:00 p.m.

Anyone planning on attending the track that day is encouraged to wear pink. General admission to Churchill Downs is $3 per person.

On Sunday, Nov. 18, participants can attend the race track to see riders, trainers, jockeys and horse owners dressed in pink. This pink out is intended to honor survivors, as well as to raise money and awareness for employees like Gonzales to remain healthy.

[email protected]
Photo: Tricia Stern/The Louisville Cardinal