Let That Pony Run
Dad and I like to watch horse racing. The problem is, we don’t know anything about it. We love horses, but as far as knowing anything about breeding or the business of racing, we are pretty delinquent. We just like to, as Dad says, “Watch the ponies run.” Growing up, I remember watching the Triple Crown every year, but one year stands out above all the others.
The year was 1989. Every year Dad and I would choose a horse to pull for during the race or races, based on some very shallow indicators like name or color. Very rarely did we know anything of bloodlines, earnings or how they finished in recent races, enough to make educated decisions. Before the Kentucky Derby I chose a big Chestnut colored horse named “Easy Goer.” This was my pick for a few simple reasons. First, because of his color, he stood out against the usual back drop of all the other bay colored Thoroughbred horses. Secondly, his trainer was named Shug McGaughey. “Shug” just happens to be the nick-name that my Dad has called me since birth. It also didn’t hurt that the betters had made Easy Goer the favorite to win the Derby. Dad chose to root for a speedy black colt named “Sunday Silence.” This horse may have subconsciously been attractive to Dad because of his fondness for Sunday afternoon ciestas.
I don’t remember very much about the Kentucky Derby itself, just that Sunday Silence, Dad’s horse, won, and my horse, Easy Goer, came in second. The other thing I remember is that I was excited about the rematch in the Preakness a few weeks later. And, man, what a rematch it was! It was the stuff of legends. No Hollywood director, no matter how creative or talented, could have made the clash of these two titans appear any more dramatic. Sunday Silence broke to the front of the pack early with the pacesetters, while Easy Goer got off to a sluggish start. But when Easy started to make his move, it looked like the other horses were standing still. When he passed the frontrunners, including Sunday Silence, it looked like the race would be a blowout, and he would leave them all in the dust.
Sundays are special, though, and on this particular Saturday, this particular Sunday was very special. Sunday Silence jockey asked for more and his horse responded. As Easy Goer and Sunday Silence started down the home stretch with ¼ mile to go, the 90,000 + in attendance knew they were witnessing something for the ages. “Down the stretch they come! Sunday Silence on the outside. Easy Goer on the inside. Stride for stride, neck and neck, nose to nose.” And after a photo finish and a stewards review that seemed to last forever….it was Sunday Silence, Dad’s horse, who won by a nose.
In my heart I still think Easy won, and three weeks later he did in fact win the Belmont, the last leg of the Triple Crown, by eight lengths, but that’s beside the point. (These two had a fourth rondexvous in the Breeders Cup, in which Sunday Silence won by a neck, but that’s also beside the point.) The point is this was a moment that will ever be etched in my mind. A moment that Dad and I shared. Ever since then, if I am unable to watch the Triple Crown with my Dad, I call him and we watch it together over the phone. More often than not these days it seems we’re pulling for the SAME horse, for we’d both like to see someone win the Triple Crown.
Though the Bible doesn’t talk much about horse racing, Brother Paul does talk about racing in general. Here’s one of my favorite passages from Hebrews 12: 1-3, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
A few things to consider from these verses…..
First, the part about “ throwing off everything that hinders” reminds me of another horse race. It’s the one at the end of “The Black Stallion” movie. You know the one about the little boy, and the big horse. In the big race they’ve dressed the boy up in so much garb so that the spectators won’t realize he’s just a kid. Midway through, he just throws off his helmet and goggles he’s been told to wear so that he can ride the Black as they’ve done so many times before. God help us to cast off those things that hinder our relationship with Him and keep us from running the race set before us.
Second, let’s talk about this part about “fixing our eyes on Jesus”. Did you know that many race horses wear blinders on their bridle that allows them to only look forward? That way they are not distracted by the crowd or other horses or anything else. They just run!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
Keeps everything in perspective, doesn’t it?