Gee Memorial honors turf advocate
NEW ORLEANS – It’s fitting that the Keith Gee Memorial, a $50,000 overnight stakes at Fair Grounds to be run Sunday for the first time, is a turf race.
As executive director of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, Gee spearheaded horsemen’s efforts to urge Churchill Downs Inc., which owns Fair Grounds, to improve the facility.
“The turf course was Keith’s focal point,” said trainer Al Stall Jr., Gee’s friend for more than 30 years.
Before last season, Fair Grounds did extensive work on the course to fix drainage issues, and Stall said that Gee was a key advocate for the project.
“What he made them do worked,” Stall said. “He held their feet to the fire. Now, everyone’s happy – the horsemen and the riders. We’re all very happy with what they did.”
Gee died April 4 at age 56 after a battle with cancer. The race named in his honor drew 10 3-year-olds, though several won’t run. The distance is about 7 1/2 furlongs.
If the surface is switched to dirt, Dolphus, who was scratched at the starting gate before the Lecomte, clearly would be the horse to beat. He is cross-entered in a firstlevel optional $50,000 claiming race Sunday on dirt and would run in the Gee only if the surface is switched, trainer Joe Sharp said.
Sharp also trains Tiznoble, He was injured in a workout last Sunday and will be scratched, Sharp said.
Sheikh of Sheikhs, the only stakes winner among the Gee entrants, instead will go to Santa Anita for the San Vicente on Feb. 15, trainer Wesley Ward said from Florida.
Sugar Bowl runner-up Twirling Cinnamon was cross-entered by trainer Brad Cox for the $50,000 Space City Stakes on Saturday at Sam Houston, and Cox was planning to run the colt in that race.
KEITH GEE MEMORIAL, RACE 8
Oscar Nominated, by Kitten’s Joy (Last three Beyers: 77-72-67)
◗ Trainer Mike Maker, known for successfully stepping horses up in class after claims, took Oscar Nominated for $75,000 out of a maiden race that he won Oct. 16 at Belmont Park.
◗ Oscar Nominated was edged by a head in non-winners-oftwo allowance company Nov. 20 at Churchill Downs in his first start for Maker and shows a steady string of workouts at Gulfstream Park since that race.
Mending Fences, by Colonel John (Last three Beyers: 57-74-48)
◗ Danny Pish trainee returns to turf after showing little on dirt in the Lecomte. The colt finished in the money in all three of his turf starts.
◗ Mending Fences rallied from off a slow pace at about 1 1/16 miles to win his maiden on this course.
Cashel Rock, by Cashel Castle Last three Beyers: 83-63-66)
◗ Gelding trained by Doug Matthews is the only runner in the likely field with two victories.
◗ Cashel Rock is 2 for 2 on turf, with both wins in sprints, and without much early speed in this field, he might get a comfortable trip close to the pace.