(Our new fire escape is almost done. But didn’t have to use it on Friday. Hopefully, we never will.)

On Friday morning, just around 10 a.m. ET and just as we were beginning a “Coffee Chat” with our great friend and great horse trainer Tom Amoss, our General Manager at the Louisville Thoroughbred Society looked out her window and remarked that there was something going on in front of our building in downtown Louisville.

Being from North Carolina, she has her own distinct way of describing things. And, ever since she arrived with us and to us in February, she has had a lot of things to describe.

“Hold on,” she said, making the word ‘hold’ a two-syllable expression. “There’s a lot of commotion going on in front of our building. I’m going to go check this out. I’ll be back.”

She was right.

Sure was a lot of commotion in front of our building.

A fire was going on in our building.

Fire trucks zoomed down the street as we were “Zooming” on the internet. More importantly, a group of professionals — armed with the right equipment, the knowledge, experience, and courage — zoomed to our rescue.

Within 10 minutes, the fire — which had started in the freight elevator — was contained. An hour or so later, we started to get our first reports and photos.

As soon as I saw the pictures, my heart fell. Another gut punch in a year full of them. Another blow to the heart, if not to the head. Another furious combination that would make the late, great Louisville native Muhammad Ali so proud and make the recipient dizzy, delirious, punch drunk.

I can remember only sitting in my chair and wondering what in the world could happen next in this most unusual of years and this most difficult of projects and endeavors.


Social unrest.


Construction delays because we can’t get the proper materials on time.

One problem discovered. One problem solved. A million other problems, or so it seems, discovered. A million reasons to quit. So few reasons to not.

I can remember only sitting in my chair and wondering what would be next. What could we do. Until I finally awoke from this slumber and daze by a single tear dropping off my chin and onto my keyboard.

The splash was not very big. But the flash in my life was.

It was then that I remembered what my most amazing mother always tells me, in times like these. And, believe me, we have seen far too many of these.

She always says, with pure of heart and conviction of soul:

“Pick you head up. We don’t quit. We are made of tough stuff.”

It was as if she was standing right there. Not whispering, mind you. Yelling. Telling. Instructing. Teaching. Again.

So I did what most boys do. Even at the age of 64.

I listened to my mom. I did what my mom told me to do.

I picked my head up.

And, I went to work.

I made a few phone calls. I got a few phone calls and the reports.

All our people were safe. First and foremost. Safe, if not sound. Sound, if not steady. Steady, if not shook. But, most importantly, safe.

The building had sustained some damage upstairs, but nothing that cannot be fixed.

Our floor had suffered only minimal damage.

Most of the fire was contained in the elevator shaft.

Some of the water used to douse the flames was now been soaked up and dried out.

The building not only can, but will be saved. Our massive project not only could go on, it will go on.

More importantly, WE WILL GO ON.

My partner, Mike Schnell, got there and called me. Once. Twice. Three times. Ten times. Twenty times. I lost count. But he didn’t lose faith.

I got a call from a great friend of mine at Churchill Downs, the most amazing of partners in our project. He and the entire team wanted to know how we were doing. They reassured us that they had not lost faith.

I got a text from another great friend. An email from another. A direct message on Twitter. A call. A post on Facebook. Each message encouraging and loving. Each person who delivered it caring and touching. Each one meaningful. Every one restored faith.

As the day faded into night, the messages and the calls did not. Faithful friends are sometimes hard to find. Suddenly, I had realized how truly lucky I am. I had no shortage. If they could have faith, surely I could, too.


The conversation that I will remember until the fire that lights my soul is finally extinguished was the one I got from Mike Schnell — as he headed out of town to go watch his grandsons play baseball. I don’t remember much of it, to be honest. But I do remember Mike saying something like this:

“I got a call from the press. They kept asking me what we are going to do. I told them that we are going to fix everything and keep going. Then, they asked if we would ever get opened. I told them that hell yes, we are going to get open. I don’t know exactly when, but I told them we will have one helluva party in there before the Breeders’ Cup.”

I don’t know if Mike meant this year’s Breeders’ Cup or not. LOL. I sure hope so. Don’t think I can take much more.

But I loved the message. I admired the resolve. I loved the dedication. And, I knew why Mike was and will always be my friend and partner.

A fire can burn a lot of things right down to the nub, not even leaving memories alone.

But a fire in the belly can light a lot of torches and can spread a lot of light, too.

We will be back.

After all, as my mom would tell you, we are made of tough stuff.

See you soon.

At the LTS.