From Our Family to Yours: Merry Christmas & Peace on Earth

(Our Christmas Tree)

It has been a most wonderful time of the year. And, we hope that each and every one of you enjoy the Holiday Season with family and friends and the one’s that you love the most. Let the joy overwhelm your heart. Allow yourself to slow, and enjoy. And, soak in what is truly the most important things in your life.

(My beautiful wife Leigh Ann)

In my life, I am blessed to have my loving, caring, beautiful and smart wife, Leigh Ann. She is brilliant. And, she takes better care of me than I do. I don’t deserve her. But I ain’t giving her back. Epitome of love, life, friendship and companionship. I love her so.

(My mother and sister at Keeneland)

In my life, I am blessed to still have my loving mother, Betty — who will prepare a most wonderful meal and party on Dec. 26 at “our home” in Midway, KY. At 88 years young, she never misses a chance to have all of her family to come and visit. With loving hands, she prepares the entire meal — including Christmas candy that she has been working on for the past month. If you have never had my mom’s home-made peanut brittle, well, I’ll be honest. You haven’t had a chance to taste manta from heaven.

(Brad and grandson Ford head into soccer practice)

(Jack & Ford in their racing silks at Keeneland)

Alex McLean
(My beautiful daughter Alex)

(William, when I could still tie his necktie)

In my life, I am blessed to have three of the most wonderful children. Brad, and his lovely wife Kate, and their two sons, Ford and Jack, now live in Columbus, OH. Don’t get to see them often. Love them every day. Alex, and her wonderful husband Evan, live in Nashville, TN. They survived a health scare earlier this year, and are two of the most beautiful souls — both inside and out. Love them every day. William is a 14-year-old and a freshman now at Trinity High School. A man of few words, but many talents. He makes our life full. Love him every day.

In my life, I am blessed to have my sister, Iraline, and her husband, Arthur. There has never been two better people to walk God’s Green Earth. Just. Good. People.

(Jamie and Mark Rawlings in the middle)

In my life, I am blessed to have a wonderful Sister-in-Law, Jamie, and Brother-in-Law, Mark. They have two beautiful children, who never let the grass grown under either foot. Don’t try to match wits with them. You’ll lose.

(Belle Belle, Haggard and Crosley)

(The dogs go for a walk)

In my life, I am blessed to have three Golden Retrievers, who give love freely and without limits. Belle Belle is now 12 and in her “golden years.” She is so pretty. Crosley is 4, and loves to be with you. Every moment. Of every day. Haggard will soon be 2. He is Crosley’s full brother, and he plays catch and fetch better than most of the Cincinnati Reds these days. What a personality. He sleeps in the bed every night, right between our legs. And, he smiles a lot.

In my life, I am blessed to have three cats, as well. Kitty Perry was rescued with he was just a few days old, and was hanging out under a car in the parking lot. He was raised by Belle Belle, and to this day, he still thinks he is a dog. He goes on walks with us, too. Kitty Birdie and Kitty Putter are overweight, and resemble their owner. They are full brothers and like bookends. You never know they are there until they aren’t — and everything falls apart.

(First Kiss and me share a moment)

(Seek N Justice)

(Jack Milton Yearling last winter)

(Baby Diamond)

In my life, I am blessed to have four horses. Our oldest filly, First Kiss, will run at Turfway Park on Wednesday. We are hoping this well-bred daughter of Smart Strike will break her maiden. She is a beauty, and has a wonderful pedigree. My 2YO colt, Seek N Justice, resides in New Orleans these days and is working his way towards his first race. Hope always springs eternal. The yearling filly is in Lexington with Tory at Legacy Springs Farm, and her half-sister, a weanling filly, Diamond Solitaire, is at her home in Oldham County under the loving care of Lori and David Osborne at Deerfield Farm. Dreams. That may come true.

In my life, I am blessed to have so many friends that I can’t list them all. But I will tell you this. Without hesitation, I cherish them all. Bill. Kelly. Marc. Max. Bakes. Mike S. and Mike R. Greg. Ronda. Happy. Bill, Bill and Mike. Ed. Mark. Sue. Doug. Rob. The list goes on and on. I love you all.

In my life, I am blessed to have known so many great people that we all lost this year. Horace Ray Thompson, my ole’ barkeep. Don Ball, the grand philanthropist. John T.L. Jones, Jr., the mentor. Frank Anderson, the camera master. Life on this Earth will not be as full. The stars above will be brighter.

In my life, I am blessed. So very blessed.

This year, a week before the Kentucky Derby, I drove to the Emergency Room at Baptist East in Louisville. I feared that the blood clots that once threatened by life so seriously had returned to my lungs. I called my loving wife, who was at dinner, and she met me there.

The same man, Tobias, who had performed my first CAT scan, was there once again. He had the honors to look inside again. Sure enough, blood clots had bridged both of my lungs. For a second time. Things were looking grim.

You see, the chances of surviving one of these scares is very slim. The chances of surviving two of them? Damn near impossible. And, I knew that when the ER Doctor entered the room and asked to speak with LA privately.

When she returned to my side, Leigh Ann leaned over and said that the Doctor thinks that you should call the kids.

I did. Toughest thing I ever had to do in my life. Don’t remember much what I said to them. Just remember that I wanted them to know that I loved them, and that they had both blessed my life beyond words. And, if the Good Lord, saw fit, that I would see them soon. Tried my best to assure them both that it was going to be OK.

As things turned out, they would be.

Two days later, I walked out of the hospital. Four days later, I went to the backside at Churchill Downs for Derby week. On Oaks Day, we ran First Kiss in a race. On Derby Day, I managed to make it to the greatest racetrack in the world before the rains washed me away.

Don’t know why I got a second chance — again. But I did. God only knows.

On the way home from the hospital, I told LA that something had changed. With me. In me. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t see bright lights, or pearly gates. I didn’t have an outer body experience. But I had an inner body feeling. I told her that I was more “at peace.” With me. With life. With things. With the world.

I don’t wish that anyone goes through a “near death experience.” I advise against that — emphatically.

But I do hope that you all do get a chance to feel “Peace on Earth.” Especially during this special Holiday Season. Especially right now. Especially today.

It is the best gift that you can receive. I promise.

I am blessed.

Tom had his filly ready. I was impressed. My filly ran her race today. She was what they call ‘second best.’”

Wayne Catalano, Trainer of Liora, second
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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