Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs. Photo Credit: Erin Pettigrew

James Taylor sings that he has “seen fire and he’s seen rain”. Today, I witnessed a fire IN the rain, a fire that burned white hot at the finish line of the 2017 Kentucky Oaks.

My business partner and lifelong friend, Gene McLean, who refers to himself in third person as “The Gene-yes”, had been strutting around The Pressbox office all week long, crowing about Abel Tasman, the Baffert trained bay filly with “Big Money” Mike Smith aboard. Over and over, he beat that Tasman drum, until finally he put his money where his mouth was. He “dropped heavy” on her, both for himself and for a couple of his weary and forlorned staff. And he convinced me, a relative novice, to show some faith in his assessment as well. And I did. I used the 13 in several different scenarios, but most importantly, on her nose.

Fast forward to around 6:22PM, as the official results and payouts were posted for this year’s Oaks. Suddenly, I felt a strange sensation as the ground shook and the trees swayed. I looked at my wife, her eyes wide with amazement.

“What in the name of Jimmy Gaunce was that?” she blurted out. And then my phone lit up like Rudolph’s red nose after a shot of O’Fo.

Lo and behold, it’s “ The Gene-Yes” on the line. And with a swift look at the official payout, I could certainly understand his insanity. “We hit em in the mouth, Watts!” he yelled. “Now, maybe they will listen! We’re back, baby! We’re baaaack!!!”

And in those few seconds after doing the math, I realized what I’d felt below my feet just minutes before.

“The Gene-Yes”, my friends, had dropped a bomb.

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