One of my favorite parts of spring is The Kentucky Derby. I especially enjoy all the back stories of the owners, the jockeys, and the trainers. Most of all, though, I enjoy the stories of the horses themselves. This year’s Derby winner, Medina Spirit, has one of the best stories ever, not to mention a great deal in common with underprivileged students.
Medina Spirit’s mother, Mongolian Changa, had an average pedigree, a below average race history, and an early retirement courtesy of a tendon injury. His father, Protonico, was a rather unimpressive sire, and big-name breeders showed little interest in him. The two equine afterthoughts (and first-time parents) turned out to be a match made in horse heaven. Medina Spirit was born on April 5, 2018.
Mongolian Changa was initially incapable of producing the milk and colostrum her foal desperately needed, so Medina Spirit was forced to feed on frozen milk from another mare on the Florida farm. Medina Spirit was described as a playful and competitive colt, but he was sent to auction in January of 2019 at the same time his mother was sold to another breeder. The colt was bought by a single bidder at a back-ring auction for yearlings with weak pedigrees. Medina Spirit was sold for the $1,000 minimum.
This past Saturday, the $1,000 yearling (and 12-1 underdog) led The Kentucky Derby from start to finish, beating million-dollar competitors with much more impressive pedigrees. The first-place payout was $1.86 million. Medina Spirit’s trainer, Bob Baffert, said it best: “That little horse has so much heart. He doesn’t know how much he cost.”
What a powerful reminder for educators. Pedigrees are not predictions. Some of our students experience inauspicious starts, survive challenging adult interactions, and grow alongside much more “pedigreed” peers. Those circumstances don’t have to define them, though. In fact, one caring adult can help a kid overcome all of them. Imagine what an entire team of caring adults can do.
No need to imagine–schools help underdog kids overcome circumstances every day. Educators change the world, one long shot at a time.