Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Tribute To The Enduring American Spirit

Today, Mine That Bird, a small horse with a big heart that cost $9,500 and was a 50-1 shot won the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby! He was trained by a former unknown in New Mexico who drove the hours 21 hours to Kentucky pulling his horse behind his pick-up all the way. When asked, trainer Bennie Woolley Jr. said, "They'll know who I am now."

Mine That Bird ran against million dollar horses and won with 6 and 3/4 lengths to spare, one of the largest margins of victory ever. I love this story and I love that stories like this happen in America every day, not just with horses but with people like you and me. Be encouraged and run like the wind!


David Hutchinson said...

Andrew Breyer writing in the Washington Post today has an interesting story on Mine That Bird's win. He canvassed some experts, and came to the conclusion that the gelding's improbable win was a function of three factors (I can't seem to avoid this sort of formulation after three years of law school):

1) the derby field was weak, and the favorites that were in the field performed poorly relative to their usual performances

2) racing along the rail was advantageous Saturday (jockey Calvin Borel kept Mine That Bird close to the rail, living up to his handle Bo-rail)

3) Mine That Bird likes it sloppy (the track, that is), and is more of a horse than might have been supposed from past performances (Beyer notes that in the gelding's losses at New Mexico's Sunland Park, the jockey did not do his job well)

Regarding the "drove here in a pickup" business, it is to the trainer's credit that he registered visible annoyance with the remora-like press person trying to enlist him in the rags to riches narrative. We can stipulate that he did not travel as well as some other trainers. And that Mine That Bird cost about as much as a bichon frise puppy. But we are not in food stamp territory here. It is regrettable, I think, when a story perfectly interesting in its own right is highjacked and forced into the mold of a vlugar metaphor.

Also, am I the only one who thinks someone should have hugged the horse? The jockey and the trainer were talking about the thing like it was a pine wood car; as though its performance was entirely a function of their efforts.

Alison M. Kilmartin said...

I did notice the irritation of the trainer, but I thought it was more because the news didn't want to talk about his skill as much as they wanted to talk about his trip to Kentucky. I hope he gets more press on his skills in the future.

As for the horse, I would love to hug him! I have no idea if he will go on to win the Preakness or Belmont, but I guess we will see whether the Derby was a freak confluence of factors that led to his win.

David Hutchinson said...

Yes, the article I cited made a tenative prediction that Mine That Bird will not win again. But as you say, we shall see. Big Brown was expected to win again, and famously didn't.

Regarding the trainer, you could be right about the source of his annoyance. If so, I'm afraid he would suffer in my estimation. There can be few things more tiresome than the company of someone who stands by and expects praise to ensue. In any event, my interpretation of the man's annoyance is that he dissents from the confessional zeitgeist, and, being a man of few words, doesn't like to have to repeat the same ones in close order.

Anonymous said...

I am at a loss for an explanation of how the "enduring American spirit" is somehow encapsulated by a horse that cannot cognize its own purpose, desire (beyond basic needs), and existence. A race horse won a race. No matter how enticing the mug of the equine, its "spirit" to "succeed" (is the horse an Ayn Rand capitalist?) is no more than what we impose on it. It is peculiar that humans often treat materially "successful" animals as humans and "unsuccessful" humans as animals. I suggest a different analysis of the "enduring American spirit."

However, if the post author wishes to acknowledge the condition of the horse on the track as no different than the hamster on a wheel (or the lawyer at the desk), then perhaps there is more truth in the analysis than meets the eye. There is a great amount of truth to the recognition that the horse lacks any ability to become more than it is, that the horse (like a human) cannot become more than it is. And perhaps, once acknowledging the misplaced emphasis of the importance of a "free will," which cannot exist (for humans or horses), one can acknowledge the intrinsic beauty of existence itself. To embrace any success as "willed" seems to ignore the principles of physics, existence, and even creation that nothing is more than it is. To elevate something beyond its own being--to impose a "free will" where there is none--begs the question of whether we somehow have a vain self-interest in promoting the idea that our own success is no making other than our own.

David Hutchinson said...


This is real good stuff. I confess I don't understand it, and that I suppose it easier and more natural to extract what Alison found in the horse race than what you extracted from her post. And I am contrained to add that if I wrote like you I might also find it useful to deny free will exists. But I dig the fact that you got what you wrote from the post.

Have you considered teaching law? I swear to God, from my own experience and that of some others going through different law schools, there seems to be a constitutional requirement that law schools hire a certain number of professors skilled in the black art of rendering otherwise intelligble stuff delphic.

Please continue to comment on the posts here. The site will be more interesting if so. I think there is something to learn from you; and that repeated exposure to the prose might allow that to happen.