Last updated: July 17. 2013 1:41PM -

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Julia Roberts Goad

Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky - When Kentucky Derby day begins at Churchill Downs next Saturday, a local grandmother will be rooting for Saint X to win in one of the preliminary races, as her granddaughter has stake in the horse.

Toni Canterbury, who lives in South Williamson, joined her daughter and son-in-law, Paula and Don Gillman, to give their daughter, then 12-year-old Amanda, a percentage of a racehorse as a Christmas gift.

“We met Jerry Crawford, the founder/CEO of Donegal Racing at Keeneland several years ago at the Bluegrass Stakes and an instant friendship was born,” Paula said.

So when they decided to give Amanda the perfect gift, a percentage of one of Donegal’s horse seemed a natural fit.

The Gillmans, Paula is a real estate agent and Don is school principal, live in Rock Hill, S.C., but have strong Kentucky roots.

“We ended up here because I was a buyer for Belk department stores,” Paula explained. “Although Don is from Pike County, we have not lived in Kentucky since getting out of college. But we always wanted to bring Amanda up as a good Kentucky girl - to love horses, Kentucky basketball and politics.”

Amanda has been attending the Derby since she was a toddler. Her parents say she has always loved horses and has been riding since the age of four. She rides and competes in hunter/jumpers.

She currently owns and rides a retired thoroughbred, Grand Finale, and still has her first pony, whose show name is Papa’s Money, named for her Papa, Paul Canterbury who bought him for her.

“This will be Amanda’s tenth Kentucky Derby, she was two at her first one,” Paula said. “She has been attending Keeneland twice a year for both spring and fall meets since she was four. Most children want to go to the beach or Disney world for spring break, but Amanda wants to go to Keeneland.”

Donegal Racing had a horse, Dullahan, that finished 3rd in the Derby last year. And while Paula said the Gillman hoped to have a horse in the Derby, she is thrilled to have a horse racing on Derby Day.

“Although we had hoped in be in the Derby again this year, we are still thrilled to have a horse that will run at Churchill on Derby Day,” she said. “We have two-year-olds that will begin running soon, so there is always next year.”

Paula said horses are a major part of the Gillman’s family life.

“Our lives seem to revolve around horses,” she said. “When we are attending races while Amanda loves watching the races and all the pageantry that goes with racing, but she is also very content to be at hanging at the barns with the horses themselves. It is truly about the love of the horse. She enjoys all aspects of horse racing and is pretty much consumed with it. She lives and breathes it!”

Amanda hopes to attend the University of Kentucky and become equine vet.

“I am thankful to Don for putting up with us and our travels,” Paula said.”And as a mother, I am so grateful that Amanda and I share a wonderful bond with the love of horses.”

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