Sir Winston was 75 when he first turned his interests to the turf and bought his first racehorse. A photo captured in the fall of 1949 shows him seated with a cigar, homburg hat and binoculars in front of his wife Clementine and grandson Winston at Windsor Racecourse. The younger Winston was wearing a collared shirt and tie like his grand pop, pressing a monocular up to his right eye. In his view was the pink, chocolate sleeves and cap adorning the rider of the gray 3-year old. A discernible smile broke from Clementine as she observed her grandson’s joy. This grandson would become a member of parliament and a prominent defender of the West.
Colonist II was an impressive thoroughbred with a French pedigree, called one of the most popular and remarkable horses of his era and always preferring to race in front of his competition. A French foal with a leading spirit was befitting to Churchill’s personality. Churchill, evidently becoming less intrigued by domestic politics after his Conservative Party loss to Labour in 1945, had perhaps filled a void with his venture into the sport of kings and through his new relationship with Colonist. Like his notable gray horse, he was a leader.
Following the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and Hitler’s declaration of war on the United States, Churchill traveled to Washington and secured an American commitment to prioritize the defeat of Germany. Churchill believed a cross-channel landing was the way to defeat Germany. It was not until two and a half years later, thanks to President Roosevelt’s postponement, that the Allied Forces would carry out the largest seaborne invasion in history, targeting a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast of France. The Americans landed on Utah and Omaha Beaches with 73,000 men from the First Army contingent.
In the same year, 4,000 miles to the West, the peaceful running of the 70th Kentucky Derby was completed at the Louisville track recognized by its twin spires. Churchill Downs bears the name of different Churchills — John and Henry, who leased the 80 acres of land for its official opening in 1875. Pensive, Broadcloth, Stir Up, and Shut Up were the leading finishers that year. This weekend is the 145th Derby and includes names like By My Standards, Game Winner, Code of Honor, War of Will and Win Win Win. A special invite colt from Japan named Master Fencer rounds out the 20-horse field. This is exciting news for Japan and for international sport and camaraderie. Japan has already seen a special week following Emperor Naruhito’s ascendancy to the throne on Monday.
I get excited when the grass turns green and May flowers start to arrive because that means it is Derby time. There is a reason it is called the most exciting two minutes in sports. A 1,200-pound animal directed by a 112-pound jockey defines what being born to run looks like. If you have ever witnessed what happens when a horse takes a bad fall and is critically injured and keeps trying to run, you also understand how much passion and commitment these athletes hold. I wonder how similar this fighting spirit is to our American heroes who served our country during the World War II years. Both are examples to me of the American spirit and being all in when the race is tough and the competition is steep.
Sport is often the best example in life of an impartial battlefield. The same course, same standards, same equipment, same day, same time and same weather apply to each participant. On this Sunday’s Run for the Roses, the odds on favorite is another gray colt named Tacitus. I will be cheering for Omaha Beach, the son of War Front, and remembering past inspirations from the Churchill name.
Dustin Manwaring is a business and estate planning attorney in Pocatello and served in the Idaho Legislature from 2016-2018.