Diamond Dale-At the Shedrow

Diamond Dale-the Shedrow
Chapter One--  The bay colt stood quiet in his stall, his weight thrown onto his rounded hindquarter and a hind-leg cock up slightly as he relaxed.  A cool, moist breeze wafted through the top portion of his stall door, carrying the scents and sounds of a typical race-day afternoon.  His black muzzle twitched as he took a deep breath in, eyeing the door with pricked ears.[br]
Matilda, the colt

The gelding was alert and energetic as Ana attached the stall tie to his leather halter, his chestnut ears flipping eagerly as he settled into his usual stance for grooming- all eleven hundred pounds thrown backwards onto his hindquarters and a hind leg cocked lazily.  He peered back at the young woman with sparkling dark brown eye, playfully wiggling his muzzle to make funny faces.

Finally Diamond Dale was on a streak, a good streak, despite some of the losses to the string that there had been.  Some experienced horses were showing that they still had ‘it’ on the track while some new purchases were proving to be worth their respective price tags.

The afternoon in Toronto was heavy, damp and overcast as the field paraded out for the 9 furlong turf allowance at Woodbine.  Standing at her favourite spot along the rails, Janine watched her newest trainee, Armory, head toward the gate.  The young colt, already a towering monster of over seventeen hands high, looked spectacular despite the week summer light.  He pranced on light feet while only giving the Pinto escort pony next to him very little problems.  Every now and then, he anxiously snapped his long black tail or gave a nervous strike to the air with a hindleg.

‘Which one are you rooting for?’ a middle-aged man asked curiously, pointing to the bay filly just two horses ahead of Armory.  ‘I’m going for that little girl right there-her name is Show Stopper’

Janine smiled with good humour, noticing that the filly definately was a show-stopper, her coat a deep burnished brown while her white markings seemed to glimmer from the distance.  ‘Number eleven is my choice’ she responded matter-of-factly, not letting it slip that she was the colt’s trainer.

‘Not a bad choice, not really proven at this distance, though.’ the man said before turning back to the race.

The field didn’t take very long to load, each horse seeming to be focused on their job at hand.  Armory slipped like a fish into his starting stall, standing beautifully as the only horse after him was led forward.  With a shrill scream of a bell and loud crash, the gate slammed open-twelve Thoroughbreds bounded forward.  To Janine’s surprise, the race was over before she knew it–Armory took the lead and never relinquished it.  He sailed home an easy winner of one and a half lengths.

Janine gave a proud smile to the man she had been speaking to, ‘Better go collect my horse’

Ana stood tall in the saddle as she guided the black gelding underneath her along the middle of the track at a gallop, feeling the tall, muscular horse chewing furiously at the bit.  He had his neck arched and he was pulling hard at the reins, obviously wanting to go faster than the measly slow pace that his rider was holding him.  Ana noticed thought that he respected her, though–never once did he try to bolt forward or shake his head angrily.

Turn ‘n’ Dash was one of the newer addition to the shedrow, a stakes placed gelding by the stallion Turn ‘n’ Burn.  Purchased on a whim and for his breeding–at the time, his pedigree made him the best-bred horse racing for Diamond Dale–it was unsure what to expect from the nearly seventeen hand high Thoroughbred.  He hadn’t done much with his career, though he had proven a winner at the allowance level of racing.

As a test two weeks before, Kayte had thrown the gelding into the Bing Crosby Handicap at 6 furlongs run at historic Del Mar, facing some stiff competition that he had never faced before.  Kayte had said she felt that the gelding liked a battle that ended fast and quick–she had scoured his racing history for any hint of what he would prefer and where would do well.  The Bing Crosby seemed a perfect fit.  The choice seemed to work-Dash managed to squeeze out a third place finish in his first start for the farm.

Leaning back on the reins, Ana brought Dash back to canter then a trot, angling him toward the outside of the track and toward where Kayte and her trainer, Brent, stood watching.  They both wore big smiles on their faces.

‘How’d he feel?’ Brent asked, running his gnarled hand along Dash’s neck and working his way toward the horse’s leg.  The gelding snorted and danced on his hooves and it a moment before Ana could settle him again.  Brent reached for a foreleg, feeling for any heat from the workout.

‘Lovely-such a gentleman out there,’ Ana replied, reaching down to pat the gelding’s warm neck.  Brent stood up with a groan, nodding to Kayte that the horse’s legs had passed his test. ‘I think he’s ready for another good race’

Kayte smiled and reached up to pat Dash’s head.  ‘Good, just what I want to hear.  Still a little stung about some of the other horses I’ve lost-’

Brent rolled his eyes at the woman, "Kayte, you know it had to be done.  Some of those horses weren’t performing.  Blind Ambition was taking too long, as much as I am an advocate of letting a young horse grow but-’

'We need income horses and cannot be sentimental about any of them.  As long as they get good homes, that’s all that matters to me." Kayte responded, letting Ana ride Turn ‘n’ Dash back to the shedrow.

Later that day, Ana was helping with the afternoon chores, finding herself sitting on a bale of hay in between 2 Diamond Dale runners.  The day had gotten humid and no one wanted to do a thing–even the bridle she was oiling seemed too much work in the temperture.

Behind her, to her left, she heard and felt the kick of the horse within the stall.  She turned around and peered inside, frowning as she saw Joe Millionaire circle in his stall.

‘Dude, why don’t you just settle in there? You’re going to drain yourself in this heat.’ she said matter-of-factly to the lanky chestnut.  The long-legged chestnut looked at her, stopping in his tracks when he heard her voice.  Only his nostrils flared for a moment–Joe wasn’t an handsome animal like most Thoroughbreds.  He was angular, his head even a little Roman-nosed from some angles.  But what he lacked in looks he made up for on the track, having earned just under $90,000 in his 4 years racing.  Not impressive by any means but hopefully with some help, he would make a decent winner for the farm.  The gelding gave a snort and gave a few mad strikes at the straw with a foreleg before popping his head over his stall door.

Gong back to her bridle, Ana shook her head, ‘Your race can’t come fast enough.’ she said to herself softly.  Joe was entered in a steeplechase that day and obviously was raring to go.

While the Saranac Stakes was not the Kentucky Derby, it felt that way along the Diamond Dale shedrow as the morning of the race dawned overcast and damp.  Armory sensed there was something different to the air, prancing on his hooves has he was hand-walked around the grounds while chewing hard on the chain that had been run through his mouth.  His mohagony coat, dappled with health, was tight over his muscles and rippled from the workouts he had been recieving since his previous win.  Janine smiled and reached over to pat the colt’s neck, making sure that he didn’t manage to get his head around for a playful bite.

‘Think you got a stakes win in there, bud?’ she asked the Thoroughbred, running her eyes over towering seventeen hand high horse’s body.  Armory was a very large horse, the biggest that ran for Diamond Dale Farm, so Janine wouldn’t be surprised if the colt was just coming into himself so late into his 3 year old season.  His previous wire to wire win in an allowance seemed to be proof that he was starting to feel comfortable in his massive body-even walking, he seemed to exude an air of control dispite feeling like he was about to burst out of his skin.

The Saranac Stakes was run at 9 and a half furlongs on the Saratoga turf course, a distance that didn’t worry Janine- much.  He obviously loved 9 furlongs but she had seen horses ruined by being pushed even a half furlong further than their preferance.  She hoped the colt wasn’t like that, since a loss that day would prove a costly mistake.  Turning Armory back to the shedrow, she crossed her fingers on hand that her boy was up to the challence.

The 10 horses stood in tense anticipation of the break for the Saranac Stakes, some standing almost quivering while other tossed their head anxiously.  Using her binoculars, Janine saw that Armory was perfect gentleman, the only sign that gave away his nerves was the constant flipping of his long ears.  There was a brief silence before the gates slammed open and all 10 3 year old Thoroughbreds burst onto the track.  For the first furlong, there was a mad scramble as the animals settled into stride, the front-runners battling it out for the coveted spot on the lead.  Armory won out, running smoothly and comfortably half a length ahead of his nearest competitor.  He dominated the field, bounding forward as the rest of the field rushed forward as they came out of the final turn.

He wasn’t even being asked as he opened a 2 length lead, the first winner of a stakes for Diamond Dale.