Welcome to Belmont Race Park! This is God and Iíll be your announcer today. Racing fans have come to see Smarty Jones. Heís the racehorse who is expected to win the Triple Crown at this yearís 2004 Belmont Stakes. Itís been a quarter of a century since this country celebrated a Triple Crown champion. Should be quite a show.
The entire nation is talking about my magnificent red chestnut (1). He captured the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes and is expected to swallow the track here as well. Everyone is confident that Smarty will run the rest of the horses right off their feet.
The predictions for this horse are stunning, even though no one can know what the future holds (2). Smarty will win by 25 lengths, some people boast. St. Matthew, the tax collector of old (3) reminded me that one person even wagered $20,000 on this horse. According to Matthew, who keeps tabs on the purse and such matters, the crowd here is betting a record $15 million. Total wagering from all North American outlets is a staggering $111 million. This is unheard of! One racing official says, ĎThis horse has no idea what he has riding on his back: the hopes and dreams of this entire nation.í
Although I alone am the true burden bearer (4), Smarty definitely seems to have everything on his side: speed, superior ability, a cool jockey, masterful handling, intelligence, and plenty of luck, people say, although I donít think so! The owners, trainer and jockey have groomed Smarty with exact disciplines and habits. By the calculations of humankind, everything will work in Smartyís favor because heís as well prepared as a horse can be for this longest and most grueling race of the series. Their predictions even echo something I wrote a long time ago: ĎThe horse is prepared for the day of battle.'(5)
The thoroughbred has obviously given a lift to the American public. Secretariat in 1973 did that, too. The media said it needed savior Secretariat then and the media says it needs savior Smarty Jones now. Stay tuned to see if racing fans find redemption today in this attractive and appealing racehorse.
The crowd rises to its feet as Smarty makes his appearance on the racetrack. Arms of spectators stretch heavenward as though Smarty is their deliverer. Watching this scene unfold reminds me of the children of Israel. They were rescued and redeemed from bondage. By what? My outstretched arm (6). I still desire to gather people to myself, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but people prefer a horse instead of me (7).
Smarty Jones enters the starting gate. The roar of 120,000 frenzied racing fans is deafening but it canít drown out the sound of the sea that roars continuously before me (8). The trumpets sound and the race will soon begin. One day the last trumpet will sound (9) but it wonít be for a horse race. The dead will be raised incorruptible at that trumpet sound.
Smarty Jones is perfectly poised to secure the Triple Crown. But let me tell you about my crowns. My wounded head once wore a twisted crown of thorns (10) and my exalted and victorious head now wears many crowns (11).
In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, the horses have left the gate! The Belmont Stakes distance is 1 1/2 miles. Smarty Jones leads the charge down the backstretch by nearly four lengths! Thereís a mile remainingÖthree quartersÖone half. The finish is in sight, but Smartyís lead begins to slip. Birdstone comes from behind and flies right past Smarty! Itís Birdstone who wins by a length!
Shock, disbelief, and a deafening silence are setting in. The crowd that yearned to witness racing history, the crowd that expected to see Smarty Jones become only the 12th horse in 135 years of Belmont history to win the Triple Crown, the crowd that put its trust in a four-legged animal, the crowd that came looking for a deliverer, is stunned and disappointed. But a horse is a vain hope and a horse canít deliver any by its great strength or speed (12). The fans are in tears. I feel an agony as well, but itís a different kind of agony.
For the first time in nine races Smarty bypasses the winnerís circle. The spectators boo poor Birdstone. So popular is Smarty Jones that even the winning jockey is apologizing for Smartyís failed Triple Crown bid. I long for him to understand that although the horse is prepared for the day of battle, deliverance is of the Lord (13). If only this crowd could grasp My omnipotence (14) and that at my rebuke the chariot and horse is cast into a stupor (15).
Centuries ago my friend Job described these animals and this day at Belmont Park (16). ĎHave you given the horse strength? Have you clothed his neck with thunder? Can you frighten him like a locust? His majestic snorting strikes terror. He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength; He gallops into the clash of arms. He mocks at fear, and is not frightened; Nor does he turn back from the sword. The quiver rattles against him, the glittering spear and javelin. He devours the distance with fierceness and rage; Nor does he stand firm, because the trumpet has sounded. At the blast of the trumpet he says, ďAha!í He smells the battle from afar, The thunder of captains and shouting.í
Jobís description of Belmont was right on. Trumpet fanfare precedes each race, the crowds shout, and jitters and nervousness beset the horses I made. Horses are a contradiction: they weigh over 1,000 pounds but are notoriously skittish animals. I made them that way.
The jockey says Smarty had trouble relaxing and that the mile-and-a-half just got to him. It goes back to that temperament thing. Itís futile of people to make a god and idol out of a racehorse, out of the work of their own hands (17).
One dejected fan shuffled past a pile of discarded betting slips. ĎI still love him. He's still No. 1 in my book,í she says. I yearn to tell her that I have a Book, too, and that I take no delight in the speed of a horse but take pleasure instead in those who fear Him, in those who hope in Godís mercy (18). I want to remind her of the song she sang in Sunday school. ĎSing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!í(19) Moses and Miriam sang that victory song and those words are just as true today. I donít suspect, however, that this little musical number will be coming soon to a horse park near her.
Itís time for me to set the sun over another day at the horse park (20). Belmontís fans believed that today was their day of salvation from a long championship drought, but the eyes of the crowd now follow their defeated four-legged savior as he slowly heads to the stable for therapeutic ice boots. They got the day of salvation part right: today is the day of salvation (21), but they have the wrong savior (22). The fans didnít find redemption in a racehorse today. But stay tuned, dear fans. Iím Heavenís Champion. Your Savior does come riding on a colt (23), but his name isnít Smarty Jones.
All scripture references are New King James.
1. Genesis 1:21
2. James 4:14
3. Matthew 9:9
4. Matthew 11:28
5. Proverbs 21:31
6. Exodus. 6:6
7. Luke 13:34
8. 1 Chronicles 16:32
9. 1 Corinthians 15:52
10. Matthew 27:29
11. Revelation 19:12
12. Psalm 33:17
13. Proverbs 21:31
14. Psalm 115:3
15. Psalm 76:6
16. Job 39:19-25
17. Hosea 14:3
18. Psalm 147:10-11
19. Exodus 15:21
20. Amos 4:13
21. 2 Corinthians 6:2
22. Acts 4:12
23. Matthew 21:5
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Dear FaithWriters: I need your advice/opinions/criticisms on this piece. Feel free to tell me what you think. Does it sound too cynical? Is the tone wrong? Is it too long? Boring? Just plain silly? Is it the kind of piece that doesnít really need to be written because itís too ďobvious?Ē Does this piece make me sound as if Iím nothing but a wet blanket who canít appreciate a good horse race or a talented thoroughbred? Feel free to let loose with any and all comments. Thanks! Sandy