Over the past few years, I’ve become a committed viewer of the Kentucky Derby. I’ve always liked horses, and though there are plenty of elements of horse racing that are troubling, I find the horses in motion beautiful and the event itself a compelling one which I enjoy for the sake of the event itself (that is, I have no interest in betting). My commitment to the Kentucky Derby in particular may be because it often does coincide with the arrival of spring here in the north country, and the green grass and blossoms of Kentucky are a kind of much needed reminder that full-blown spring is indeed finally on the way.
But I never expected that I’d be writing about the Kentucky Derby on the Western Literature Association Blog, that is, until Mine That Bird, accompanied by his former rodeo rider trainer, the black cowboy hat wearing Chip Woolley, made the long trek from Woolley’s home in New Mexico (with a stop in Lone Star Park in Texas, no less, so that Mine That Bird could enjoy some western exercise before continuing east to Kentucky) to bring a little western spirit to this distinctively eastern (and southern) event. And as famous horse trainer Bob Baffert commented after the race, “Those cowboys came with a good horse.”
Although, to be accurate, that good horse is Canadian in origin, but surely his training in the American West contributed something to his victory.
It was an amazing race to watch, as Mine That Bird appeared from seemingly nowhere and shot into the lead, leaving the other horses trailing behind. A 50-1 shot, no one expected Mine That Bird to do well in the race. As the Boston Globe writer Joe Sullivan described his chances, “[Jockey Calvin] Borel, who won the ’07 Derby on Street Sense, is terrific but even he can’t carry this one home. This son of Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone couldn’t win at Sunland Park in New Mexico.” And if you can’t win in the hinterlands of New Mexico, what chance to do you have in the glorious East?
And so, coming from of all places, Kentucky, a reason to salute the West, New Mexico, and those cowboys with their good horses.
How Mine That Bird’s victory was received in the American West:
The Canadians were pretty happy as well: