The NY Times Reports: Rabbi Israel Rubin conceded that it was an unusual field trip for his students. They were here at Barn 70 on the backside of Saratoga Race Course on Friday morning to see a trainer about a horse. The trainer was Bob Baffert, and the horse, Maimonides, was a fast one who just may capture the Kentucky Derby next May.
The Kentucky Derby did not interest Rabbi Rubin. He does not attend horse races or gamble. In fact, upon hearing about the colt, Rubin thought long and hard before arranging to take his students here.
“Some may think this is sacrilegious,” he said.
Ultimately, however, the rabbi and his students were drawn here from the Maimonides Hebrew Day School in Albany for what is in a name.
The school and the colt are named for Moses Maimonides, who lived more than 800 years ago and is considered among the greatest Jewish philosophers. He was the chief rabbi of Cairo and the physician to the sultan of Egypt.
“He blended religious study and intellect with worldly manners to heal the sick and guide the healthy,” Rubin said.
“He was respected and honored by both Jews and Arabs. This is especially relevant now in our life and times.”
Maimonides is owned and was named by Ahmed Zayat, an Egyptian now living in New Jersey who did not know about Rubin’s visit, and when told of the smiles of the youngsters petting the nose of his expensive colt was beyond gratified.
He is a Muslim who grew up in a suburb of Cairo and had put much time and effort into bestowing the name Maimonides on his prize purchase.
“He was a very special man who was highly regarded by all people, regardless of faith,” Zayat said of Maimonides. “What has happened with Sept. 11, Iraq, and what’s going on in the region is contrary to the way I grew up. If this horse was going to be a superstar, I wanted an appropriate name. I wanted to say something with the tool I had, which was a horse. I wanted it to be pro-peace, and about loving your neighbor.”