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In support of the likeable underdog

Gulf News

Why do people support underdogs and find them so likeable? Researches have for long attempted to find the answer by analysing the extent of a person's support for a player or team who is expected to be on the losing side, much like the mythological David was when he fought Goliath.

More recently we found ourselves smitten with Sylvester Stallone's on-screen character in the rags to riches story of the boxer Rocky Balboa. The film received many positive reviews and turned Stallone into a major star. It also generated five sequels.

I'm not very sure just how many supporters the underdog Sole Power had when he caused the biggest upset of the English season by winning the Nunthorpe Stakes (Group 1), York racecourse's premier sprint, at odds of 100/1.

The three-year-old beat off some of Britain's top sprinters, including the heavily backed Starspangledbanner and Equiano to take the £240,000 sprint and become the longest odds winner of the five-furlong sprint since 1922.

I'm not comparing his feat to that of South African golfer Louis Oosthuizen who won The Open Championship at St. Andrews after starting the tournament at odds of 250/1 or Cameroon who upset World Champions Argentine in the 1990 Fifa World Cup and cricket minnows Bangladesh who pulled off what was probably the biggest shock in the history of the game when they upstaged world champions Australia in a one-day game in 2005.

What Sole Power pulled off at York last week will be talked about for a long time. Perhaps there will be no references to Dark Star who is believed to have caused the greatest ever upset in the Kentucky Derby in 1952. Sport is also about drama and the unexpected. It's what brings the fans back time after time.

Horse racing is a sport with so much depth and mystery. It's part of its charm. Who will win? Nobody knows for sure until the first horse passes the post.

Not too many sports can deliver joy and heartache at the same time. Researchers will continue to attempt to unravel the mystery of the underdog but for now let us raise a cheer for these so-called losers.

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