I'm not a gambler and rarely bet on anything, but I've been known to jump out of the chair and start yelling at them as they round the clubhouse turn and head for the finish. And ... I usually have almost no idea who's racing. I'm not even a fan of horse racing in general. I'm just nuts, I guess.
I did sit in the stands of Churchill Downs once, but it was the week after the Derby. In fact, the seats in which we sat would have cost well over a $1000 each just seven days earlier, and that's definitely not an option for me. I was there with my family at a special event organized by the International Science Fair where my daughter was competing. No racing for us - just Bill Nye, the Science Guy and some other entertainment.
Anyway ... I watched the race and reacted as I always do. I got emotional and shed a tear or two. I'd like to think this emotional reaction to horse racing began when I watched a different race decades ago. In that race the horse broke a leg in the back stretch and had to be destroyed.
I have never forgotten that, but it's not really why I get emotional. I suppose at some level it's possible the abilities of these horses remind me of my own challenges and the things I can no longer do, but that's not it either. That might lead to sadness, and these tears are "happy" tears.
I watch these powerful animals, so beautiful and graceful, run with a spirit that we can only envy. What most of us wouldn't give to run with that joy, with that sense of freedom! Then I think of the massive power being transferred to the ground through those seemingly too fragile legs, their one weakness. It's the utter magnificence of it all that gets to me.
I have to wonder how anyone can look at these horses run and not shed a tear over the sheer majesty they represent. I hope that I always do. To be able to experience fully whatever emotion I'm feeling tells me I'm alive. And alive is good; it beats all of the alternatives. Although I'm not that sure I ever was, I would not have liked being told that "big boys don't cry."
By the way, Orb won. He wasn't my pick, but then I never choose based on anything other what feels right. I have to admit that two years ago I was pulling for the lady jockey who was on Pants on Fire. I liked that she was the rare female Derby jockey (only the 6th in history), and I liked the horse's name. So this year I rooted for her again - Rosie Napravnik riding Mylute. Ninth place in 2011 and fifth place this year. She's good and, sooner or later, a winner.
Maybe next year.