Strike It Rich

I am not very keen on Thoroughbred racing. Just as publishing is now largely run by money-people rather than book-people, racing suffers from too much influence from the money-people, and not enough respect for the horse-people or for the horses, in my humble.

The sport is trying to improve from a humane perspective, and has come a long way in recent years, but I’m a still a skeptic. If you breed an animal for three hundred years to be fast, then a lot of not-so-keen traits are tolerated and even reinforced, provided fast individuals exhibit those traits. This is not fair to the many, many individuals who lack competitive speed. Enough said.

I did, though, happen to catch this YouTube drone video of Rich Strike winning the recent Kentucky Derby.  That colt came out of nowhere, fired up the turbo-jets, and VA-VOOM. When the favorites were all tuckered out, he was still pouring it on, and thus did an 80:1 long shot handily win the race.

It’s delightful to watch, in an edge-of-your-seat way. The horse from nowhere (well, Ohio), the last minute entry that wasn’t supposed to happen, the very worst starting position, the jockey who’d never won a Grade 1 stakes, the trainer who’d lost his barn to a fire a couple years back… On no planet was this the winning team.

And yet… win, they did, and my joy for them is enormous, and I got to thinking about long shots, generally. They are a part of American culture. Democracy was a long shot, but we’re still betting on it (albeit many of us nervously). Immigration is a long shot, but so many of us got here because our ancestors were willing to take that risk. Minorities in this country know all about long shots,

Authors depend on the long shot dynamic, on weaving stories where the happily ever after, the solution to the crime, the successful senior year, all become long shots. Readers come along for the ride, because if the long shot can win, anybody can win. Long shots give us hope, they give us the courage to take risks, they give us reassurance that even if the system is rigged, the lucky and the few can still beat it.

I’ve been the long shot. My most memorable taste of that status happened when I wrote a proposal to the state of Maryland to provide legal services to children in foster care. I had little experience with that kind of law, I had no political connections with the procuring agency, and my team was up against the incumbent’s well oiled (and well funded) machine.

I still recall the day I learned that I’d written the winning proposal. I was a broke, increasingly exhausted single parent, terrified that my law practice would never gain any traction. The news that we’d won the contract literally dropped me to my knees. I lay on the ground, feeling the warm sun on my face, watching the blue summer sky overhead, unable to think anything but, “Thank you.”

Thank you, that I can afford to raise my daughter, make my house payments, and buy groceries, but also thank you, universe, for proof that my hope for a meaningful and manageable life has not been in vain. Thank you for I-can-breathe-now. Thank you for a moment of unalloyed joy, because we need those.

So, congratulations, to Rich Strike, and his team, and to everybody who bets on the long shots that come through.

Have you ever had a long shot moment? Been in a situation where you beat the odds or watched somebody else pull that off? I’m sending out the ARC files for Miss Desirable this week. If you want one and I don’t send one to you, please email me at grace[email protected]. (And for my fellow print readers, the Amazon print version just went live.)

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10 comments on “Strike It Rich

  1. Well, I’ve never had a longshot moment. I tend to think of myself as the unluckiest person in any group.
    But, so that my pessimism or bad luck take a back seat, that doesn’t mean good things haven’t happened to me. I just don’t think they were “longshots” so much as hard fought battles. I would love to have a longshot moment, though! Makes me happy thinking about it. 🙂
    I sent in a poem to a magazine for consideration of publication once. I felt like I could conquer the world when I hit the send button. Anything was possible for a few hours or days. But, then, the disappointment when I got the rejection notice. *sigh. I didn’t think the poem was “that bad” or maybe it just didn’t fit what they wanted to see precisely. So, on with my life, I went.
    Ahh, but, for a few days, I was on top of the world! 😀

  2. I have not personally had a long shot moment, no. But I do love to see them experienced by others! In real life and in fiction. It does provide hope, for sure. And can allow one to be determined to try for that long shot oneself, which I think is a double-edged sword!
    And I’d love an ARC, Grace. I’ll drop you an email if I don’t see one show up in my mailbox. Bless you got your generosity and kindness.

  3. I love horses and get great pleasure watching them in open fields also on the race track.One of my nephews is a jockey and for many years he was at the famous Newmarket stables.We loved to visit him and watch him race and place small bets.Often on long shots that came in first but more often than not—last.But what a buzz I got and wonder of these beautiful beasts.My nephew now lives in Australia and works with training/riding horses that race around a track with a trap attached and he sits on it.Recently he had a serious fall and now must reconsider his age and stamina and retirement.To his mothers horror he is considering purchasing land to make a race track not for horse racing but motorbikes .From beauty to machine.I hope he gives it a lot of thought for he has a young family growing.A long shot and dangerous.Whatever he decides I wish him well.

  4. We never watch horse racing, on TV or in-person, except for the Kentucky Derby (when we remember to watch) and other legs of the Triple Crown again, if we remember. But we watched last week’s race and were blown away but the horse, the jockey, the owners and trainer WOW! And to think it was all very last minute and not supposed to happen etc. etc.

    There were times I DIDN’T REALIZE I was a long shot and it worked out in my favor. I got the part and was told they hadn’t wanted *my type* but during my audition, changed their minds. I wish they hadn’t told me but perhaps it was good to know!

    Have a great week, Grace!

  5. The closest I have ever come is watching a child with autism “get it.” I can still get chills just writing this note. Actually now that I am 45 years down the road and can tell you I have seen it more than once at a variety of levels. It is a wonderful life affirmation.

  6. My still being alive is a long shot. I had a brain aneurysm in February 2021. I thought it was my first migraine. I made it five days before I went to the hospital and tests showed it was a brain bleed. I had brain surgery to put a platinum coil in through a catheter at my wrist, snaked up to the base of my brain, to stop the bleeding. The doctor told me that of the people who have the condition I had, 1/3 never make it to the hospital. 1/3 come out in very bad shape. And 1/3 come out in pretty much normal shape – as I did. I am thankful to have more time, more chances to do what I am given to do.

  7. That is a wonderful story about you winning the contract.

    I suppose my personal long shot moment was when I was told that I was pregnant. My son was born when I was 4 days shy of 40. It took ten years for us to have him.

  8. Only place I’ve ever seen something like Rich Strike’s win is in a movie. Only time I’ve seen Thoroughbred racing, too. It was long odds on us walking into a restaurant in time to see that maybe?

    My marriage has been rather a long shot, knock on wood, 35 years on.

  9. My long shot-moment was becoming a mother. My husband and I tried for too long, went through two failed IVFs and so many tears. Then at age 43 the Lord decided it was time and we confirmed my pregnancy on Valentines Day 2007. My doctor cried when he told me the news. So at 43 I gave birth to my long-shot, my son. And at 45 we were blessed with a daughter, this time my doctor laughed. Yes, I am an old mom, but I love my kids harder than anything else I’ve ever done. Thank God for long-shots, and God!!

  10. Mother’s Day weekend I not only watched Rich Strike become a long shot winner but I sat surrounded by my family and realized we were long shot winners as well. Forty-eight years ago when I was seventeen I sat in stunned disbelief as a doctor explained to my mother & myself that my gynecological problems were such I would never be able to sustain a pregnancy past a first trimester and thus never have children. It began an emotional spiral in my life that brought destruction.

    At age 24 I found out I was “accidentally” pregnant and I was already in my second trimester. Despite the opinion of my mother, my career mentors, bosses and friends I chose to give birth & keep my son. I became the long shot winner.

    Then less than a year later I met and married a man who again my mother, friends, family, career mentors etc said was a terrible mistake. He was already twice divorced, ten years older than myself, in law enforcement and the most logical human to ever walk the earth. (Think Mr. Spock without the pointy ears.) We’ve been happily married for 40 years now. We are the long shot winners.

    He’s the only person who could appreciate my insane sense of humor, think at almost 66 years old & over weight I’m still the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. To him I’m still Miss Cotton 1978. He laughs at my jokes, has worn life size parrot costumes for me, funded more Children’s Church Events than any man should have to, never blinked an eye when I’d come home at 2am with someone else’s children to support & raise for a week, months, years. He is my son’s daddy & always chose to be. People said he’d never last but here he is, bathing me on days I physically can’t, learning to do laundry, making dinner when my health bottoms out again. He’s my long shot winner.

    The Saturday Rich Strike won I looked around at our family. I was surrounded by daughters, son in law, grand kids, a soon to be grand daughter in law and a soon to be grand son in law. My birth son wasn’t there. I looked at all these people who don’t share one smidge of DNA with me, some don’t share the same skin shade. I listened as they gave little speeches about me. My daughter who my mother told me would ruin my marriage because her biological mother was my husband’s first wife. That daughter is pure sunshine & love. She’s a gift to me from a God who said we’re his long shot winners. I got to raise her from 14, I AM her mom. My oldest daughter who I didn’t get to raise but she became mine as an adult. She’s the one making plans to move 2000 miles & take care of me due to my health. Long Shot Winner! My youngest daughter came home with me the night I met her as the cops hauled her biological daddy to jail. People said “you can’t get custody of her she’s multi-racial and you’re not!” I learned to ask for help to fix hair that is nothing like mine and laugh at people who think skin color matters more than love. People said “but she’s in a gang!” and I said yeah….my gang. She’s a teacher now and specializes in at risk kids who need to learn they CAN be anything they choose to be. The past are merely chains to be broken and they own the hammer. She’s a mighty long shot winner.

    I looked at my grand children who actually forget they don’t share my blood and who argue with teachers that we’re on the same family tree. And I listened to my soon to be grandson in law as he poured his heart out to me how my granddaughter has told him she was breaking their engagement because she’s been told at 30 she can’t have babies. He looked me in the eye and said “I want to adopt. I’m thinking either from the Ukraine, China or Haiti.” Long Shot Winner!

    I have a brain tumor, I think I poured out my heart here one day and was incredibly embarrassed afterwards. All the drs say there is nothing to be done, no hope and I have 6-24 months to live. Bet me? I’m a long shot winner, my entire life has been filled with long shot wins. I believe I’ll be here a long, long time. I have weddings to dance at & great grandchildren to sing to. Long shot winners every single one.