CARENCRO, La. (KLFY) — A local painter with generations of horseback riding history is giving back to those in need.
The Kentucky Derby was held on Saturday in Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. One local painter whose family has been in the horseback riding industry for generations is giving back to those in need with the permanently disabled jockey’s fundraiser. It was a dream come true for the painter to help those in need by auctioning his work to the fundraiser.
“Here I am going to Kentucky with several of my paintings, living a dream come true,” says Keith Estilette.
For Estilette, painting always came naturally to him. Art has always been a part of his world. He recalls growing up and always having a pencil in his hand. “I grew up with a pencil in my hand, and I’ve always liked to do paint. The older I got the last few years, the more I started experimenting with canvas painting,” said Estilette.
His paintings posted on Facebook granted him a call for the disabled jockey fundraiser. “It just went from coast to coast, and then from there, I was approached by an organization that permanently benefits the disabled jockeys. I was asked if I would be interested in doing some artwork and donated some painting for the fund for this year for Kentucky Derby week,” he said.
Estilette donated several of his pieces. They were each autographed by the jockeys in the artwork, such as Jockey John Velasquez, Jockey Mitchell Murrill, Jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr., and other Louisiana jockeys signed them.
Estilette’s family has been in the horse racing industry for several generations. He remembers his family spending Sunday afternoons at the old Carencro Racetrack. He said his dad was a trainer while his brother was a jockey. “My dad had a racetrack behind his house, and Corey and his mom and dad lived next door, and we were young. We ran around that racetrack pretending we were racing, and I’m sure we pretended we were in the Kentucky Derby,” said Estilette.
One horse rider from the family is Corey Lanerie. He rode in the Derby this year. Lanerie, whose horse name is Smile Happy. They placed 8th in the race.
Estilette is reminded of how proud of him he truly is. “It’s just very exciting to know you and have someone who is so close to you—my only nephew. I get emotional when I talk about it,” he said. “He started riding professionally at 16 years old. Here he is, this 16-year-old boy, and now he’s in the Kentucky Derby.”
But there is one thing he hopes will grant him the ultimate dream. “My big goal with all of this is to one day be selected as the Kentucky Derby official poster artist. I think that probably will be the pinnacle of my career as an artist,” he said.
All of Estilette’s artwork pieces were signed and sold. The painting was bid at: Derby Delights – Charity Auction Group, where all proceeds benefit the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. The winner of the auction was Louisiana Pride.