Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Under Dogs

It is the American tradition to route for the under dog. Why? Because we are the under dog. Who'd have thought that a rag-tag group of merchants and farmers could have held off one of the best armies in the world in the late 1700s? But we did. And we did it again in 1812. Who doesn't love a rags to riches story? The small-town kid making good? The guy building a multi-million/billion dollar business (Microsoft, Amazon, Apple) in his garage?

Last Saturday the Belmont Stakes was run. This year there was a chance at a Triple Crown winner in California Chrome. He won the Kentucky Derby and a few weeks later he won the Preakness. He was the under dog. He was bred by a mare no one wanted. His owners, who are blue-collar workers, scraped together from their savings and retirement $8,000 to purchase the mare and another $4,000 to breed her. And for a measly investment of $12,000 they produced a foal that had the spunk and fortitude to rise above his humble beginnings.
Image from bloodhorse.com

And rise he did. He came from nowhere; against all odds; against the careful, expensive, pedigree breeding done by those who have themselves been carefully bred into the equestrian world. Who'd have thought the blue-collar would win over the blue-bloods? America cheered for him when he won the Derby. America roared when he won the Preakness. America put money on him to win the Belmont. We wanted him to win, we needed him to win.

He didn't win. Our hopes were crushed. Our expectations unfulfilled. That happens sometimes. Remember, to be the under dog, you have to lose sometimes. With all the attention that California Chrome was getting, and the love he was receiving form the entire horse racing fandom, didn't that by definition make him no longer the under dog but now the favorite? Didn't that make every other horse that raced that day the under dog? So, with the win by Tonalist, didn't the under dog actually win?

Anyway, congratulations to Tonalist for a race well run. Congratulations to California Chrome for giving us hope and reviving the thrill of the race. As my Dad once told me, "we know who the real winner is."

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