Friday, December 6, 2013

The Doubting of Doubts

This week's story is actually a real account, so I hope you like it!

I can remember sitting down one Saturday, turning on the TV, and flipping to the channel on which the Breeders Cup was being broadcast. This was odd for me as I wasn't big on daytime television nor was I a fan of any sorts when it came to horse racing. I was simply bored that day, and, while the Cup didn't cure my boredom, I still watched for one race. I'm glad I did.

I'm a kind of gambler; I bet my pride, and my pride is not something that I plan on losing anytime soon. I was sitting there for this one race and watched as all the horses made their way to the starting gate. I hadn't bet anything yet, but I had distinct favorites before the race even started. Funny thing is, I don't remember which horses I liked. What I do remember is a jet black colt who has stuck with me for years. I don't think he had much white on him; he was just black. He was tall, lean, pure racing Thoroughbred stock, bred and raised to the nines.

What gets me about racing and all equine related sports is that you never know what you're going to get. You can bred the very best to the very best and still get a dud, all that money down the drain due to a thing as simple and complex as genetics. I thought this colt was a dud. Sure, he was pretty, but his resistance at the gate and general dislike of his situation told me that he wasn't up for the job. I don't remember the odds, but I don't think he was anything special. He was the middle man.

As the last one in, his disagreement held everyone else up. They finally got him between the gate walls. They shut the doors. The track went silent. What was he thinking then? Was he determined? Was he scared? When it comes to horses, there are two things you can be sure of in a stressful situation: they are annoyed, and they are hungry, but there was something more in this horse. I didn't know it then, but by the end of the race I was sure, and slapped myself in the face forever doubting him.

When the gates opened, he stumbled. He managed to stay on his feet and with his jockey, but a stumble out of the gate is a huge setback. The rest of the group went off, and the opinionated colt spent most of the race playing catch up. I paid him no mind; he was a dud.

Have you ever had the universe put you in your place? I can say that I have, and it was during that race. The colt, the black, the dud came charging to the front of the pack like a cheetah on the hunt. He surged ruthlessly from dead last to first place without a single flop. There was no stopping that horse; he was on a mission. He won that race and the props of being a Breeders Cup winner.

Of course, while everyone on the TV screen in front of me is cheering and clapping and sending congratulations to the owners, I was sitting on my couch wondering where in the hell that little speed demon came from. I still don't believe it; it was a truly surreal moment, but the colt's win sends a message to me.

The odds are important. The bloodlines are important. The conformation is important, but, when it comes down to it, no horse can do well without attitude. It's the attitude and the heart that are the secret ingredient in the recipe for a successful athlete, animal or human. You can have everything playing against you. You can have the worst cards in your hand, but sheer determination can be enough to get the job done.

For such a prestigious run, that black colt was pre-christened with the name Pluck. I've always been of the impression that when someone doubts you, it's your job to prove them wrong. I wish Pluck knew how well he proved me wrong.
Pluck, son of Vinery's leading Stallion, More Than Ready. (c) Breeders' Cup

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