Gee Me­mo­rial hon­ors turf ad­vo­cate

Daily Racing Form National Digital Edition - - News - By Bob For­tus

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

KEY CON­TENDERS

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.

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