Friday Deep- Sired by Man O’ War

Posted on January 26, 2010


As a native Kentuckian, I really should know more about horse racing than I actually do.  It’s a shame, I don’t know how it happened.  Thoroughbred racing is the lifeblood of the Bluegrass State, and I’ve grown up surrounded by it, living as I do just 15 minutes from Churchhill Downs.  I can fake it well enough during the time the Kentucky Derby is going on.  Exacta this, wheel the 4 and 6 horses, don’t believe the Beyer speed rating on this one, etc.  I’ve got the lingo down.  But when it comes to picking actual horses to win actual races, forget it.  I’d have better results choosing winners based on which one looks most likely to bolt for freedom.  I can hear Stephen Foster rolling over in his grave as we speak.

The one aspect of horse racing I know about, however, and the one that has always fascinated me, is the concept of pedigree.  It’s shocking, but horse racing as a sport is essentially one huge exercise in eugenics.  Horse owners take their best male horses and mate them with the best female horses, and then hope that the offspring is the genetic Powerball between the two.  If this horse is a winner, great!  Let’s start it training to race and become the next Seabiscuit.  If not?  Well, 8 year old girls will always need something to feed apples to.  As an analogy, just imagine the US Olympic committee (in an effort to create a track-and field superbaby) forcing Usain Bolt to mate with Jackie Joyner Kersee.  Actually, don’t imagine that.  Yuck.  But it’s the same idea.

Leaving that aside, the process of This Horse mating with That Horse, whose foal mates with Another Horse (and so on) creates a horse’s pedigree, or bloodline.  When evaluating a horse, this is a big deal.  Who is its sire (or father)?  Mother?  Grandfather?  What family tree does it belong to?  What racing characteristics run in that family?  On a very broad level, you can tell a lot about a horse based solely on its pedigree.

Man O’ War was one of the great horses of all time, particularly in the early era of American horse racing.  As a racer, Man O’War was practically unstoppable.  If he were a human being, he would be a linebacker.  He was huge, fast, muscular, an awesome physical presence- this horse demolished the competion in practically every race he entered.  After his career, Man O’War retired to stud, where e sired 64 stakes winners, and his bloodline eventually encompassed a total of 124 stakes winners.  In horse racing circles, Man O’War’s is a regal bloodline, and it is one that still exists to this day.

Bloodlines make a difference in our lives too.  For most of us, our family pedigree doesn’t look anything like Man O’War’s.  When we look back, we see ordinary parents, regular grandparents, stretching on ad infinitum as far as we care to look.  Not many of us can say we have royal blood in our veins.  Very few can point to the patriarch of our family tree and say, “That right there is who I’m in the line of,” with any glow of pride.  More often than not, if we find anything at all in our pedigree, they are vague positives or small-time negatives.  ‘They invented a new flavor of cheese’, ‘They once slipped on a roller skate into traffic and now that’s why we have a law about it.’  Ho-hum.

The Bible tells us something different about our bloodline, though, something exciting.  In 1 Peter, as Christians we’re called ‘a royal priesthood, a chosen people.’  And Hebrews 2 calls Jesus our ‘brother’.  Imagine that- according to God’s word, we really do have royal blood coursing through us.  The King of Kings is our brother.  We are collectively, a priestly order, set apart by God.  Our bloodline is the same as Abraham’s, of David’s, of Elijah’s, in that we all have the same Father.  We can look back at our history and know that we are part of a pedigree that produces people of God, guided by the loving hand of God himself, redeemed by Jesus on the cross.  We have, in a sense, been sired by Man O’War.  And just like his children, we run as champions.

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