Bullet Works

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.  As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 9:1-5)

If you know me, you know I am big fan of horse racing. In the world of horse racing when you talk about works, it is referring to the training runs, the workouts the horse performs typically in the mornings.  For instance, the trainer may have the horse “work” four furlongs (a half mile) to keep the horse in good condition in between races.  These works are typically timed and published for handicappers.  A bullet work occurs when a horse runs the fastest work of all the horses training that particular morning.

Bullet works are good works.

Afleet Alex like all other thoroughbreds born in 2002, as far as the racing world is concerned, turned three years old on January 1, 2005.  After winning a couple of Grade One stakes races as a two year old,  he went on to win the Arkansas Derby and qualify to be eligible for the Kentucky Derby.

In the traffic of the Kentucky Derby Afleet Alex finished third.  Two weeks later in the Preakness Stakes, Afleet Alex, stumbled at the top of the stretch and nearly dropped to his knees with his nose almost going into the dirt, but miraculously he recovered.  Jeremy Rose, the jockey, had no idea how he was able to remain on the horse.  He did, and not only did they manage to recover, but they also went on to win the Preakness Stakes by almost 5 lengths.

Three weeks later Afleet Alex would win the Belmont Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Crown by exploding in the final turn and winning by seven lengths.

Three of the children of the ownership syndicate of Afleet Alex were named Alex or Alexandria which is how the son of Northern Afleet and grandson of Afleet earned the Alex portion of his name.

Alexandra “Alex” Scott was born in January of 1996.  Shortly before her first birthday Alex was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer.   In the year 2000 after her fourth birthday, she received a stem cell transplant and told her mother if she if she got out of the hospital, she wanted to have a lemonade stand.  She wanted to give the money she earned to the doctors to “help other kids, like they helped me.”

Later that year she held her first lemonade stand and raised $2000.

Despite her battle with cancer Alex and her family would continue to hold lemonade stands to raise money to fight childhood cancer.  As news spread about the little girl with neuroblastoma who was dedicating her frail life to raising money to help other sick children like her, more lemonade stands popped up with the proceeds going to Alex’s cause.

The owners of Afleet Alex had become aware of the efforts of young Alex and her lemonade stand by reading an article in a local newspaper one day.  They felt some connection between their Alex and the little girl working to help fight cancer and they began to donate a portion of Afleet Alex’s winnings to Alex’s Lemonade Stand.  At first the donations were anonymous but as Afleet Alex became more successful a partnership was established and little Alex’s cause was shared with the world.

In August of 2004 Alex passed away at the age of eight years old. Up to the time of her death, her charity had raised more than one million dollars.

But even after her death, Alex’s parents continued the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation  Through their association with the owner’s of Afleet Alex they were invited to set up Alex’s Lemonade Stand at the 2005 Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont thus exposing the foundation to world.

After winning the Belmont it was determined that Afleet Alex had a leg injury that would end his racing career and he was retired to Gainseway Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.

When Afleet Alex stumbled and jockey Jeremy Rose surely should have been thrown from that horse, he would say “An angel kept me safe.”  That angel in his mind was little Alex.

Alexandra Scott was very special, and to many so was Afleet Alex.

One of the owners tells a story of a visit to Gainseway Farm where she found two women openly weeping while standing in front of Afleet Alex.  They were sisters and one of the sisters had recently been diagnosed with cancer.  They had driven all the way from Maine to see this horse.  The owner explained that the sister with cancer truly believed that if she could just touch the horse, she would be cured.

We don’t know why Alex Scott developed the cancer that took her life after just eight short years.  But as the scripture above explains it wasn’t because she sinned, or her parents sinned.  With her cancer Alex recognized the need to help other sick kids and the doctors working to find a cure.  She answered her call to perform good works.  As a team, the two Alex’s raised a lot of money to help to find cures for pediatric cancers. You might say the works of God were displayed in the efforts and generosity of the pairing of Alexandra Scott and her family with the owners of this horse and Afleet Alex himself though surely, he didn’t understand how much his work mattered in the cause.  But others, like the sister who thought touching him might cure her cancer, understood how special he was.

I have read that Methodists believe “Faith is necessary to salvation unconditionally. Good works are necessary only conditionally, that is if there is time and opportunity.”  We might find some comfort in that since we don’t always have the time or the opportunity to serve at certain stages of our lives, yet our faith remains strong.

For Alexandra night came sooner than expected, but she made the best of her opportunity.

“As long as it is day, we must do the works of Him…”

And they did.

You might even call them bullet works.