By Jack Engelhard
A 50 to one shot won the Kentucky Derby, which means that no one, or hardly anyone, expected this to happen. But that’s life at the track.
That’s life, period. We’re all 50 to one shots. Those are the odds (against us) at practically everything we intend to do with our lives.
Sometimes we win. Mostly, we lose. Here, I may be talking about writing, but I’m really talking about everything else as well.
This horse, Mine That Bird, broke dead last from the gate and as the saying goes, came from “out of the clouds” to finish first, owing to a brilliant ride from Calvin Borel. Isn’t that a dream we all share? – to be counted out by our enemies and even our friends and then, when all seems lost, here we come, dashing, to overwhelm them all!
That’ll teach ‘em.
This horse, with ordinary pedigree and so-so Past Performance, beat the bluebloods – blueblood horses matched by blueblood owners and trainers. He was purchased for peanuts, about $7,000. Compare that to the millions, yes millions, that were spent on those other 18 thoroughbreds that Mine That Bird vanquished so decisively.
Two of those horses that were beaten were owned by the prices of Dubai. This commoner beat royalty. This means that as of today, this horse IS royalty.
In other words, in racing as in life – anything can happen.
(Each of us has the spark of a champion, even of royalty. David, as we remember, was thought to be the least of his brothers.)
The racetrack is about horses and it’s about gambling but mostly it’s about dreams. Every man or woman with a horse has a shot. Every man or woman with a dream has a shot, inside racing and outside racing. We all have something inside us that may wake up one day and surprise. We may surely surprise our enemies and we may even surprise ourselves.
Winners don’t always win. Losers don’t always lose. So beware.
(Even Mine That Bird’s connections weren’t so sure. They bypassed the usual equine first-class plane ride; instead they vanned him from New Mexico to Kentucky.)
The backstretch – which I visited every morning while researching “The Horsemen” – is a place brimming with optimism.
In the morning every horse is a winner. In the afternoon, reality happens. So?
“We’ll get ‘em next time,” says the trainer.
Back to work. That’s the motto. Never give up.
People ask – “do horses know when they win or lose?” They sure do. I’ve seen horses who seem beaten come back with urgency at the wire to win by a nose.
They refuse to lose.
I once saw a horse take a bite out of another horse who had the nerve to pass him nearing the finish line.
The better question is this – “do PEOPLE know when they win or lose?”
I don’t know the answer. I do know that, at certain moments, we give in to despair. That certainly includes me.
This leads to – “what’s the use?” We keep trying and trying but what’s the use? Nothing good happens. It’s so hopeless!
This leads to the biggest question of all; should we give up or keep on fighting?
Horses have the answer, as the Kentucky Derby proved so emphatically — when a thoroughbred thought to be a pauper turned out to be a king.
Novelist Jack Engelhard is the author of “Indecent Proposal” and “The Bathsheba Deadline.” His latest novel, “The Girls of Cincinnati,” is available on Amazon. He can be reached ay www.jackengelhard.com