Saturday, May 20, 2006

Preakness Stakes

Jockey Edgar Prado immediately pulled up on Barbaro in order to minimize the injury he knew the horse incurred. Barbaro was a very good possibility to win the Triple Crown this year—thoroughbred racing’s ultimate prize, winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby, and he was racing in the Preakness today. He suddenly broke bones above and below his ankle, so his racing career is over, and now his owner and trainer pray for his very life, as do thousands who witnessed the event.

This is a touching story, of an injured animal and a rider who loves him. But there is more—why does the accident of a single horse strike such a chord in so many? After all, the owners are wealthy, the trainer is a professional, the jockey will ride again. The element of transcendence from sports story to human interest is in this description:

Prado, who just two weeks ago was celebrating an overpowering Derby victory aboard Barbaro, was in tears moments after he gingerly pulled up Barbaro in front of the grandstand and then jumped off to ensure that the horse didn’t aggravate the injury...

…The 39-year-old Prado may have saved the colt’s life by reacting instantly and keeping his mount balanced as he pulled up to prevent him from putting more weight on the limb than necessary. Once he got Barbaro halted past the Pimlico finish line, he jumped off and grabbed the reins to try and keep the horse from panicking and exacerbating the injury.

Herein lies a story of heroism, in the jockey immediately recognizing a calamity and reacting in order to save his horse, regardless of the race, the money--whatever. His immediate reflex was to save the life of the horse.

It is also the awareness of perfection in nature. What makes a horse stand out; what makes a thoroughbred race horse want to win; what makes the nature of an animal so strong that it self-destructs in the attempt for glory?

The thousands who saw the event were struck by the tragedy, and thousands wept over the injured horse’s dilemma. Why is the emotion of so many people captured by an animal? Barbaro is a symbol of wonder in nature—of a divine creation beyond the cerebral grasp of us mortals. Then there is the interaction of professionals who can train this great animal to be the best of all—the fastest horse on the planet at that moment. The breaking of that momentum—the interruption by chance—reminds us of the reality of life, that we are not privy to the divine plan.

A hero in the midst reminds us that we mortals are great and wonderful too! Sometimes heroes come out of nowhere. The jockey quickly working to save the life of the horse—that is the lesson here. The race is not the issue, the prize is not the only goal—the love we all share, and the love of life and of its utter sanctity—that makes a horse race, as they say. At least that’s what made today's Preakness.

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