Hope and the Kentucky Derby

They call the Kentucky Derby the most exciting two minutes in sports, and that certainly seemed true this year. Watching Rich Strike come from almost the back of the pack in the final seconds of the race was truly amazing. It shocked even the announcers who were not even mentioning his name until the very end. Even I watched the video replay several times to see how he did it, and I am no horse racing fan, even though my mother grew up on the edge of horse country in Kentucky, less than 40 miles from Lexington. Raised by a single mother after her father was killed in a tragic accident, horse racing must have seemed like it was worlds away for my mother, just as it always has seemed for me.

But there was something about watching Rich Strike win that horse race that amazed me. For sure, it is incredible to watch him maneuver past all those other horses towards the end of the race until finally bursting through an opening to win, but I think that it is something more—something about his back story. He was only put into the race days before they ran it. None of the experts expected him to win it, because he hadn’t really won much of anything before the race. Neither had anybody involved with him—trainers, owners, jockey—none of them had won much of anything. In the world of elite horse racing, like the Kentucky Derby, they were all as out of place as I would feel myself to be, and yet, Rich Strike won the biggest race of them all.

And I wonder if there is a lesson in it—something inspirational in it especially needed in our times. One of his early trainers spoke in an interview about Rich Strike’s confidence as a key factor in his win. And his current trainer said that he would never put a horse in a race that he did not believe the horse had a chance to win. And that sounds an awful lot like what hope is. Hope is not delusional thinking divorced from reality. Hope is nurtured by a community of people who believe in the good that is possible. And hope is tough and strong and resilient, keeping us in the race despite the odds, maneuvering through the obstacles, trusting that there will be an opening. And maybe, in our times, which can seem so dark and troubled—maybe Rich Strike’s win in the Kentucky Derby can be an inspiration for us never to give up but to keep trying, to keep running the race set before us, to keep  hope alive.


–Pastor Don Steele

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