Sunday, March 27, 2011
A Country :) Again
Bring back Horatio Alger to write the story. Hire Frank Capra to do the movie. Use Winston Churchill as the narrator. He could start off by saying, "There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man."
In the desert hard by the Persian Gulf, the first horse across the line was Japanese, the second horse to the line was also Japanese. For the first time, Japan owned the richest horse race in the world, and 5,000 miles away millions of Japanese, if only for a day, were smiling again. A horse race won't turn on the lights, put food on the table if there still is a table, and chase away the threat of nuclear damage. But it was still nice to see the Japanese smiling again.
When the earthquake and then the tsunami ravaged Japan, racing was one of the casualties. The tracks shut down, a miracle that they were hardly damaged, and in one place, not far from a nuclear power plant, 200 horses had to be moved to a better place, where there was electricity and running, potable water. Victoire Pisa and Transcend were not among them. Missing the earthquake, they had been flown to Dubai early, to get comfortable over an American-made synthetic track that they would be trying for the first time.
Still, Victoire Pisa's owner, Yoshimi Ichikawa, and his trainer, Sumii Katsuhiko, were not enthusiastic about running. Their minds were 5,000 miles away. But finally Ichikawa said: "With the result of this race, we would like to bring back some hope and courage to the people of Japan."
Hope is the operative word. The Japanese around the Meydan track wore black three-button shirts all week long. That four-letter word was printed on one of the sleeves. On the back, March 11--the date the ground had moved with such ungodly violence back home.
When Victoire Pisa, far back, made his wide, winning move almost five furlongs from home, Ichikawa started screaming: "It's a miracle! It's a miracle! It's a miracle!"
After the race, he said: "It has been a really dark time for Japan and hopefully this will help to lift the country."
Manami Ichikawa, the owner's daughter, said: "This day is for Japan. It's a dream."
Going into the race, it was a third Japanese horse, Buena Vista, who was thought to have the best chance. The mare had earned $12 million, more than the other two horses combined, and had beaten Victoire Pisa last year, when she was declared Japan's Horse of the Year. She would have been a hunch bet for me as well (same name as the San Francisco bar where Irish coffee supposedly got its start). But Buena Vista finished eighth. Victoire Pisa, based on betting in the U.S., paid $36.60 for $2. Transcend went off at 40-1. In the hearts of those in their homeland, they were a mortal cinch.