Pitching in to fight cancer in Saratoga Springs

The Saratoga jockeys traded in their reins and silks for caps and gloves to help fight a worthy cause.

The jockeys faced the state police in nine competitive innings of softball before a crowd of about 500 people at Eastside Recreation Field in Saratoga Springs on Monday, Aug. 13. The event raised more than $4,000 for the Catie Hoch Foundation.

Catie Hoch died in 2000 at the age of 9 from neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of pediatric cancer. Since then, her parents have raised more than $600,000 for the Clifton Park foundation that bears her name.

John Steve, a forensic photographer for the state police, originally approached Gina Peca, Catie's mother and the foundation's president, about setting up the game five years ago.

We read through what the material was about the Catie Hoch Foundation, what they stood for, their goals and mission. We loved it, so I called Gina, Steve said. "This is a local charity. It's a great cause. It doesn't just help kids in the area, it helps kids all around the state."

About 12 jockeys came directly from Saratoga's 10-race card to Monday's event, including Edgar Prado, John Velazquez, and Kent Desormeaux.

Sam the Bugler, famous to New York horseracing fans, was on hand to play the national anthem at the event. He has performed at 15 Belmont Stakes.

Following the sixth inning, Prado said the crowd was enjoying the game and the jockeys offered to play nine innings instead of the planned seven. After the event, jockeys signed autographs and took pictures with fans that came onto the field.

"I give them so much credit for being so compassionate and being willing to help, coming out when they could just as easily go home," Peca said. "They're amazing."

The troopers had won the previous three years, but the jockeys won on Monday, 9-8.

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