Saturday, May 07, 2016
The Fastest Two Minutes in Sport
Happy Kentucky Derby Day!
It is the first Saturday in May, the day of the fastest two minutes in sport. The Kentucky Derby will be run at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky late this afternoon. The Derby has a long history. It is the season premier for the best of the best, at what is likely the peak of their racing career. Planning for most of the three year olds running today, started 4 or 5 years ago with careful selection of a mare and stallion. Tons of cash go into careful breeding of horses that are most likely to be the fastest of the fast. Even there the odds are long that the foal will make the cut for the field three years down the road. Rarely, does a horse of humble beginnings make it into the field, and even more rarely does the winner come from obscurity. But it can happen, lightening strikes, people win the lottery, and that chance drives people to try.
Owning top level racing is a hobby for the wealthy. A lot of it is old money, some of it is new money. The past couple of years there have been contenders owned by people unheard of and struggling to make a living 20 years ago. Most people don't get into racing thinking they are going to make money at it, they get into it because they love horses and have money to spend pursing that love. In the process they get to spend a lot of time with like minded people. Some of the big name farms are owned and supported by a single wealthy family, others are business who who breed, keep and train horses for owners who want to be involved in racing, but don't want to own a farm (or shovel horse manure.) It is rare, very rare, for a humble horse farmer to strike it rich in racing. But a lot of humble horse farmers make a good living raising horses for others. It is a difficult business, one horse in a thousand will rise to the top and make money. Horses have to be taken care of in all kinds of weather and 365 days a year. Much of the front line work is done by low wage workers, many of them immigrants. The reward, when you have that special horse is the spectacle of racing.
Take a break around 6:00 eastern time this afternoon and find a television. Watch the pomp and circumstance of racing. As one lyricist put it, the horses are there for "the chance of a lifetime, in a lifetime of chance."