Updated on 09/17/2011 10:26AM

It was truly McGee's lucky day


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Not many trainers have ever had a Saturday like Paul McGee, who went from winning a Grade 1 to becoming a hot walker inside an hour last weekend at Churchill Downs.

McGee won the richest race of his career when Honor in War pulled an upset in the $400,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. But instead of heading to the clubhouse for champagne, McGee quickly excused himself to return to the stables. He had promised his brother-in-law Ron Ellis that he would help him prepare Atswhatimtalknbout for the Kentucky Derby, which was an hour away.

"When he came back here I couldn't believe it," Ellis said. "He had just won a Grade 1. He said, 'I will celebrate later.' "

Ellis had asked McGee to help with Atswhatimtalknbout, who had been rambunctious in previous trips to the paddock for schooling. Fearing that a large crowd could excite Atswhatimtalknbout, Ellis asked McGee to be present in the paddock as a precaution.

"The way he acted in the paddock when we schooled him, I was a little nervous," Ellis said. "I asked him to be in the paddock, but that wasn't good enough for him. He wanted to be here and walk over. That's the kind of guy he is."

The presence of McGee did not go unnoticed in the paddock by rival trainers.

"I took a lot of ribbing when I was walking him," McGee said. "T.V. Smith and Bob Baffert said, 'Hey, I need a hotwalker.' "

McGee's luck did not extend to Atswhatimtalknbout's performance. Sent off at 8-1, Atswhatimtalknbout rallied from 12th on the backstretch, fighting his way through traffic in midstretch to finish fourth, two lengths behind Funny Cide. Atswhatimtalknbout is being pointed to the Belmont Stakes.

McGee is uncertain where Honor in War will resurface, but the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap on the June 7 Belmont Stakes undercard is a possibility and the Arlington Million in August is a long-term goal.

McGee's good fortune was not over after Saturday. At dinner with family and friends on Sunday evening, he was telling a tale of betting woe.

McGee explained he had bet a Woodford-Derby daily double using his horse, Honor in War (No. 9), and Ellis's horse, Atswhatimtalknbout (No. 4). When he reached into his pocket to show everyone how close he had come to landing a massive gamble, McGee noticed he actually was holding a daily double linking Honor in War with the No. 6 horse in the Derby - Funny Cide.

"I think the teller punched out the wrong number," McGee said.

The $1 9-6 double paid $425.90. McGee's $40 daily double ticket was worth more than $17,000.