I love watching the Kentucky Derby. The race is good – but the hats are just as fun. This year’s Kentucky Derby was a muddy mess and everyone’s hats were a little soggy before the race ever began. The horses lined up in the gate, the jockeys were ready to go, dressed in brightly colored silks – then the gates flew open and the race began. Palace Malice (who thinks up these names??) took an early lead and I thought would win the race. But there is a reason the Derby is called the most exciting two minutes in sports. The race may only be about 2 minutes, but it is the last 30 seconds that make all the difference. There is a life lesson learned from watching those horses.
I watch the race every year. Last Saturday’s race was the 139th and was particularly fun to watch. I enjoy the history, the horses, and the hubbub that surrounds the day. The gates flew open and the brightly colored silk was dull and muddy within the first 20 seconds. It looked like the horses were running the race in creamy peanut butter and their hooves were slinging it everywhere. The jockeys wore goggles that were soon coated with mud. I don’t know how they could see where they were going! The beautiful horses were soon muddy messes.
Palace Malace ran strong, taking the lead and keeping it for much of the race. But, as the horses rounded the turn for the home stretch, a horse began moving from the back, into the middle, and then out to the front of the pack. Orb had been a favorite to win, but at the beginning of the race it wasn’t looking like that would happen.
Joel Rosario, the 28-year old jockey from the Dominican Republic, is the reason Orb wore the roses last Saturday. Joel had ridden Orb in several races in the past and knew the personality of the horse. Orb ran a relaxed race, at an easy pace, for the first minute or so. When it came time to make a move, the jockey urged Orb forward, steered him where he needed to go and allowed him to run past the horses that had spent their energy already. Orb won the Kentucky Derby by more than two lengths.
When I think about this year’s Kentucky Derby, Paul’s statement in Hebrews 12 comes to mind: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (verses 1-2).
It is good to be reminded that this life we are living is a race. In the scheme of our eternal existence, our earthly lives are just a two minute race. But the outcome of that race, especially the way we finish it, is of huge importance. Who is your example of someone that has lived life as a witness for God? Are you running your race with patient perseverance? Orb won the Kentucky Derby because he didn’t run so hard in the beginning, that he burned out before he rounded the home stretch. Do you have your eyes on Jesus? He is the trophy at the end of the race. Our race can get muddy and we may get a little grimy along the way. The promise is, at the end of the race, we will be “washed white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).
My folks used to say that some things were, “just good ol’ horse sense.” I think we all had a good lesson in that truth watching Palace Malice and Orb at the Kentucky Derby. Take some time, re-evaluate your race, and then remind yourself who needs to be holding the reins. Let Jesus steer you toward the finish line. If you do, the trophy is guaranteed!