Victory Assured

Truth is I’m smitten. Bordering on giddy. Certainly anxious and eager. Along with many across this nation, I have fallen in love with a horse, California Chrome.

Worthy of poet Gerard Manly Hopkins’ Pied Beauty, here is how the New York Times describes the animal who tomorrow will attempt to be the first horse to sweep the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978:

The colt comes from common stock and grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in thoroughbred racing, but he is pin-up pretty, with a lustrous chestnut coat pulled taut over a body that looks wrought by the hands of a sculptor.

His name was pulled out of a cowboy hat — for real — and combines his birthplace with the term used by horse people for the flashes of white on a horse. California Chrome sports bobby socks on all four feet, and his face is creased by a white racing stripe.

What sealed the allegiance of this guy who’s only ridden – and that’s a generous term – a horse once in his life was the “common stock” part and hailing from “the wrong side of the tracks.” I also like the fact that Chrome’s trainer is the oldest to ever win the Kentucky Derby at age 77.

Hopkins’s poetry effusively proclaims what we all know in our hearts — we consistently find God in creation, ordinary things and everyday “stuff”.  What else should we expect from a God whose self-revelation occurs primarily within the history of a people and penultimately in the Incarnation?

Tomorrow, as I scrutinize Chrome’s every move in the Belmont Stakes, I will have in mind a poem shared with me by my friend Susan Stabile. It is from Mary Karr and wonderfully titled Who the Meek Are Not. For me, Chrome symbolizes all the little guys, every one of common stock and any from the wrong side of the track – those Jesus titled meek and humble of heart.

Not the bristle-bearded Igors bent
under burlap sacks, not peasants knee-deep
in the rice-paddy muck,
nor the serfs whose quarter-moon sickles
make the wheat fall in waves
they don’t get to eat. My friend the Franciscan
nun says we misread
that word meek in the Bible verse that blesses them.
To understand the meek
(she says) picture a great stallion at full gallop
in a meadow, who—
at his master’s voice—seizes up to a stunned
but instant halt.
So with the strain of holding that great power
in check, the muscles
along the arched neck keep eddying,
and only the velvet ears
prick forward, awaiting the next order.

Let’s cheer all the world’s California Chromes on to victory. For blessed are the meek, they shall inherit the earth!  We should all aspire to be in their victory circle.


You may read the entire NYTimes story about California Chrome’s improbable destiny [here].

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