04/10/2015 9:59AM

Fornatale: Paying tribute to Keith Gee

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When I showed up at the 2014 National Handicapping Championship, I had just started working for Daily Racing Form and didn’t know a lot of people in the contest world. One player came up to me right away and introduced himself. He was familiar with my work and complimented me, making me feel instantly at ease. He was Keith Gee.

Gee, who died April 4 at age 56, was the executive director of the Louisiana Horsemen's Benevolent and Protection Association. He was a lifelong resident of Metairie, La., and was a big sports fan – a Saints and Pelicans season ticketholder. Racing always held a place near to his heart; he attended Saratoga for opening weekend every year and was a regular on the contest scene.

Former NHC champion Michael Beychok wrote a tribute to Gee on his blog. Beychok’s memories of Gee are inextricably intertwined with horse racing. “Keith Gee loved the racetrack,” Beychok wrote. “Seems like every time I was at the track, he was there, from the time I was a teenager to the last time I saw him last November, playing horses and competing against other horseplayers, trying to qualify for the NHC one more time.”

Beychok also acknowledged Gee’s efforts at the HBPA. “He fought fiercely and successfully on their behalf the past few years to get the Fair Grounds management to improve the backside conditions and the turf course,” Beychok said. “He was a large part of why this year’s Fair Grounds meet was so successful.”

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Judy Wagner, who knew Gee from her work on the Louisiana Racing Commission as well as the tournament world, pointed out that Gee’s reach extended beyond racing and into the local community.

“I admired him for his commitment to coaching and mentoring youth in local baseball leagues,” said the 2001 NHC champion. “Keith left the world a better place because he participated in life with his whole heart, from family to friends to working with youth.  He will be missed.”

Gee, who graduated from Tulane University in 1980, was a big supporter of the NHC. He qualified six times, the first being in 2003 after he first started playing in contests. He also qualified five years in a row from 2010-14.
 

nolagistics More than 1 year ago
Keith Gee was a great guy, horse racing advocate, and Legend here in NOLA! I've known him since I was a youth playing sports at the local playground to recently hanging out as horseplayers. This guy was everywhere. This past year was my first Kentucky Derby and of course I run into KG! It was fitting he said welcome to the big leagues boy. I had asked him at that moment to come along, but he respectfully declined as he had his agenda for the day planned out (or maybe it was bc he didn't want to be seen with 2 other horseplayers wearing sequined Cali Chrome jackets, understandably so lol). Later that day, sure enough I find myself ending up in the Winners Circle with Team CaliChrome thanks to the man Robbie Rodrigues of @robbiespicks. On the plane ride home, KG and I have the same flight and I said hey Boss here you geaux, here's a rose from the WC as he looked at me with that big smile he had while shaking his head. The only thing I could think unselfishly was KG deserved to have that moment in the WC that day as I have only been in the horse racing industry less than 2 years. I actually gave him a ride home from the airport and in typical KG fashion he offered a rookie up some great horseplaying tips that have helped me this year. Wanted to share that story for Y'all! Whodat to KG certainly Horseplayer HOF status warranted for this guy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow, great story! Thanks for sharing. Keith was the best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Actually, Kee's handicapping prowess was first on display in 1991 when Thoroughbbred Challenges I, II, II were held at the Mirage in Las Vegas. He was a major contender back then. In the intervening years, we would seek each other out whenever both participating at tournaments around the country. He never failed to have a big smile on his face, exchange pleasantries, reminisce, AND address me as "Mr. Wolfson." And, each time I would tell him to call me Steve. The world, in general, not just the racing world, and I, in particular, will really miss Mr. Gee.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ah, I didn't know he played at the Mirage tourneys, great info. Thanks for sharing.
Steve More than 1 year ago
There are all sort of personalities among horseplayers and so few with the positive energy and genuine niceness of Keith Gee. I didn't know him very well, but--as noted above--he really had a way of making those around him happier in his presence. I'm sure he made days brighter in all his travels. Very sorry that he's left us so early.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amen, Steve. Thanks for sharing.
Dahorsecapper More than 1 year ago
Great tribute. Sounds like a great person for the world in general. Best wishes to his family and friends.