Oct 11, 2007

In Memoriam - John Henry

So, maybe I just knew it was near time for the inevitable and I just had to get my fix of him before the end, but loyal readers know that my passion for John Henry was beyond logic. As reported here, he hadn't been doing very well in the past few weeks and he had to be put down early this week. He was a true underdog that made history and that, more than anything else, can definitely explain a lot of my love for him. Here was a little gelding that no one wanted, sold at a yearling sale for $1,100. He was small and mean with no pedigree to speak of and frankly, he wasn't much of a racehorse for a good portion of his early life. In this loving portrayal, Bill Finley puts it best: "But what nobody knew back then was that there was something innately extraordinary about this animal, who had a burning desire to succeed. It was as if he one day decided that he wasn't going to settle for being mediocre anymore. From that point on, he tapped into an inner strength that allowed his desire to overcome any shortcomings he might have had."

And okay, it might be a little sentimental and hokey, but it best describes why I am so enamoured of the horse. I have a soft spot for those underdog stories, especially where the hero never compromises. And as anyone who met John Henry knows, he never compromised his nasty behavior. I love that about him. It's like he haboured an inner rage against people for dismissing him all those years ago and he could never forgive and forget. That rage is what drove him and made him great. It feeds into my belief that you don't have to be nice to succeed, sometimes the greatest of them all is the one who uses his anger as a motivation.

But anyway, we've lost a track legend. A horse who kept running until he couldn't run anymore, at age 10. He was a horse you just couldn't stop and just kept getting better and better. I dare people to name me 5 other horses who were/are at the top of their game at 9. He is a inspiration and a role model for the sport of racing. Like the resonating lines from that Pixar movie, Rataouille: Not everyone can be a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere."

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