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Rebbe drives jockey to win Triple Crown

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JACK MILNER

Jockey Victor Espinoza, who was born in Mexico and is a practising Catholic, was about to ride American Pharoah in the final leg of the American Triple Crown. The horse had won the first two legs – the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness – and was looking to become the first horse in 37 years to win all three races.

To help his cause, Espinoza prayed for success at the grave of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Queens, New York on the Thursday before the race.

Espinoza recited psalms at the Rebbe’s ohel at the Old Montefiore Cemetery in Cambria Heights. He also wrote out his own prayer note in Spanish that he added to a pile of prayers left at the sacred site, the New York Post reported.

While at the grave site he carried the biography, “Rebbe: The Life and Teachings of Menachem M Schneerson, the Most Influential Rabbi in Modern History”, by Joseph Telushkin.

Espinoza was accompanied by Rabbi Efraim Zaltzman, director of Chabad of Kingsborough in Brooklyn, Kabbalah teacher Rabbi Berel Lerman and Rabbi Motti Seligson, director of ‎media relations at Chabad.org.

“No matter what religion you are, or what temple you go to, you always come out with a different energy, which is good,” he told the Post about visiting the gravesite, adding that he was not superstitious.

Talking about the upcoming race, he said: “Whatever happens, if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be. If not, then I move on like last year.”

Espinoza added that he was a “spiritual man”. He said he prayed about 10 times and meditated probably five or six times a day. After receiving a blessing last month from Chabad Rabbi Sholom Ber Korf in Florida, he scheduled the gravesite visit, a detour from his regular preparations for the Belmont.

“So much energy right here,” he said of the shrine. “It would kind of build you up right here. It’s like good energy drinks.”

The jockey told CBS the most important thing he prayed for was health because, “without health, we cannot do anything”. His Jewish publicist, Mike Weitz, said Espinoza believed that “with G-d’s help and the Rebbe interceding for him… he’s going to be very successful and very safe”.

American Pharoah’s owners, the Zayat family, are observant Jews who originated from Egypt. The family said they would observe Shabbat on race day and would camp overnight in RVs on Belmont’s grounds.

Espinoza and American Pharoah won the Belmont Stakes in emphatic style, ending the 37-year wait for a new Triple Crown winner.

Espinoza said that if his prayers were answered and he made history with American Pharoah, he would not mind making the trip to the Rebbe’s grave a new Belmont Stakes tradition.

The truth is it did help that Espinoza was on a brilliant horse who many pundits had been predicting before the start of the event, would win the Triple Crown.

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Comrades No 39 for Vic Boston

 

JACK MILNER

Vic, an osteopath and acupuncturist, completed the race in 11 hours 45 minutes and 35 seconds to finish in position 10 727 of 16 588 starters. In his category Vic finished in position 1 343 of 2 379 starters.

He received the Vic Clapham medal, which goes to athletes who finish the race in between 11 and 12 hours.

Vic Clapham was the man who founded the Comrades Marathon. He fought in the First World War and after the war, wanted to establish a memorial to the suffering and deaths of his comrades, as well as their camaraderie in overcoming those hardships.

His idea was to establish an extremely demanding race where the physical endurance of entrants could be put to the test.

He asked for permission to stage a 56-mile (89,60 km) race between Pietermaritzburg and Durban under the name of the Comrades Marathon, and for it to become a living memorial to the spirit of the soldiers of the Great War.

Permission was at first refused but was eventually granted. The first Comrades took place on  May 24, 1921, Empire Day, starting outside the Pietermaritzburg City Hall, with 34 runners. 

The constitution of the race states that one of its primary aims is to “celebrate mankind’s spirit over adversity”.

In that regard Clapham would have been very proud to see Vic Boston receive his special medal, as he embodies that very spirit.

 

 

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