Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Seabiscuit for a new age

A lot will be made in the coming weeks about the Kentucky Derby victory by Mine That Bird, a 50-to-1 longshot, the second-biggest underdog victory ever in the history of America's most magnificent sporting event.

But let me point out what may become an overused parallel. Mine That Bird could become the Seabiscuit of this generation.

Seabiscuit was purchased for $8,000 in the early 1930s as the United States was struggling to break free from the Great Depression. Americans grabbed on to the underdog Seabiscuit, who quickly shot up from obscurity to become one of the greatest racehorses of all time. Seabiscuit gave hope to the masses, and a sense that anyone could reach for the stars.

Mine That Bird was purchased for $9,500 by his owner in 2008. Other horses in Saturday's Derby were purchased for two, three million dollars. And nobody gave Mine That Bird a chance until he was six lengths ahead on the home stretch.

Now, as the president might say, we're in the worst economic slump since the Great Depression. And Mine That Bird, the horse that nobody wanted (at least not for more than 10 grand), will likely try to pick up the second leg of the Triple Crown in two weeks at The Preakness.

Back in Seabiscuit's day, thoroughbred racing was really the only game in town besides baseball and boxing. So Mine That Bird likely won't have that kind of impact. But if the ninety-five hundred dollar horse wins The Preakness and runs for the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes in June? This country will be crazy for horse racing.

I'm rooting for Mine That Bird, and I'll be rooting for him in two weeks along with the rest of a nation in need of a moral victory.

--Matt Kelsey

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