Gene’s Claim to Fame : Gelding Costs Trainer $150, Repays Him by Winning $55,000 and 14 Races This Year
A 5-year-old gelding who won 14 races this year after being saved from slaughter by a trainer who bought him on a whim, is in line for an honor of sorts.
Gene is among nine horses nominated for Claimer of the Year, an annual award sponsored by the Horseman’s Benevolent and Protective Assn. for horses that participated in at least one claiming race during the year.
He appears to be going off the favorite, having won 14 of 22 races, the most victories of any thoroughbred running in North America this year.
“He sounds like he’ll get it,” said Gene’s trainer, Gary Patrick of Tampa, Fla. “I think he really deserves it.”
Patrick bought Gene for $150 almost two years ago after he broke down on his fourth time out at Tampa Downs. Gene won the race, but his right hind cannon bone was fractured, and X-rays also showed chips in the front ankles and a broken right knee.
“Through a veterinarian, a trainer and the owner, I wind up buying a horse,” Patrick said. “You know how you do. You just get an impulse to try a race horse and see if he comes sound.”
Patrick didn’t have the money for an $800 operation that would have put pins in Gene’s legs. So he and his wife, Cindy, let him recuperate in a stall for six months while they kept his leg wrapped and occasionally gave him a treatment in the whirlpool.
Eventually he was allowed to exercise in a small pen, then run openly on a farm the Patricks rented.
In his first race this year in January, Gene finished third and the Patricks were pleased. Then in February when Gene won five races in a row, they knew their rehabilitation had worked.
Gene was an instant hit with race fans at Detroit Race Course, winning six of eight races while being hailed as Gene the Racing Machine. Patrick said Gene has won more than $55,000 this year after ending last year with about $11,000 in purses.
Robert Raymond, a spokesman for Detroit Race Course, said Gene was a special horse even though he didn’t set any records.
“Gene is a good horse when you compare him to an outstanding horse,” Raymond said. “He had an outstanding year for a horse who’s lucky he’s not dead at this time.”
The Claimer of the Year award will be announced in the January issue of “Horseman’s Journal,” said Kim Callihan, secretary-treasurer of the HBPA. She said the winner’s owner will receive a plaque during the association’s February meeting at Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.