Let's Begin...

Throwing his head up, Beau, aka Rock Runner, propelled himself forward with a swift kick from his hind-legs. His gray pelt rippled over muscles of steel, the stripe and snip down his face shining bright white, and his brown eyes gazed with burning intensity towards the nearing finish line. He was a machine, sheer power in his gait, and iron in his will. His pounding hooves were like the chugging of a train, his breaths the engine’s rising steam. He ran over the track as if it was one long puffy cloud, and his body flew by as if it had wings…

…Then, Moochi woke up.

Opening her eyes and rubbing them, the blur of sleep still distorting their vision somewhat, Moochi rolled on her side and looked at the alarm clock that sat on a miniature folding-table beside the bed. The clock read ‘4:30,’ and the girl yawned loudly, her body reacting automatically as if in protest. Yet, she still scooted to the edge of the bed and put one foot on the rug, shoving herself upright. Then, with a gentle moan, she dragged the other foot out from under the pile of white sheets, standing up and stretching her arms over her head. For an instant, she just stood, listening as various joints popped and loosened. Then, she was moving again, albeit slowly, to a chair on the other side of the room. Grabbing her purple satin robe off of the back of the chair and pulling it on, she headed into the bathroom. She turned on the faucet and splashed her face with water, blinking her eyes widely and wiping her face on a white towel.

She paused.

“It’s today.� Moochi said to her reflection, and the image of herself, like a long-lost twin, moved its mouth in unison.

Moochi took a shower and got dressed in a hurry, launching herself out the door of her hotel room and almost forgetting her key. With the sun still hiding from the sky, Moochi headed off to the ‘Moochi Mobile,’ a dark green Ford Explorer that was almost as old as she was. When she got in the car and turned the ignition, it coughed and sputtered a moment, before purring like a gentle kitty cat. Patting the dash, Moochi thanked her beloved old car, and backed out of her parking space at the front of her hotel. On the way out of the parking lot, she was almost sideswiped by an oncoming Jaguar (a convertible, no less). The driver of the Jaguar was middle-aged, and his face was twisted into a look of horror as he passed. But the other car was just far enough away for Moochi to swerve at the last instant, so she wasn’t too upset at the man. Besides, it was a Jag (a convertible Jag!) for heaven’s sakes. Moochi quickly forgave the man. The Moochi Mobile, however, sputtered afterward, as if hurt by her nonchalance at its almost getting its side squashed. She sighed and patted the dash again, promising to get gas for the old car later to make up to it.

Suddenly, Moochi’s cell phone rang.

“Hello?� She asked when she managed to pry it out of her purse and answer it.

“Hey, chica!� Answered a young woman’s voice, and Moochi squealed upon hearing it.


The young woman on the other end of the line, laughed softly. “Hello! I just got your message on the answering machine. How’s Beau looking?�

“I don’t know yet. I’m actually on my way to visit him right now.� Moochi said with a smile in her voice.

“Oh! Okay. Well, I guess you’re excited about his first race, huh?�

“Well DUH!� Moochi laughed. “I can’t believe I’m actually going through with it though. I was thinking of scratching him. I’m not entirely sure if he’s ready for something like this yet.�

“Oh, please! Just relax! I know he’ll do great no matter how he finishes. Besides, even if he doesn’t actually WIN, it’s not really THAT big a deal! I mean, look at Secretariat!�

“Oh jeeze, let’s not start that again.� Moochi said, chuckling.

“Mooch, he was one of the greatest racehorses of all time!�

“Yeah, yeah, and he only lost his first race. I got it. But, I’d feel a lot better if you didn’t start comparing Beau to him just yet… I mean, it IS only his first race. We don’t even have the feel of him yet.�

“Oh no…  Where’s my day-dreaming fun-idea girl? Rick’s gotten to you, hasn’t he?â€� Alex said, her voice playfully accusing, and Moochi chuckled again in answer.

“No, no. It’s not that. But, Rick IS right, you know. He told me to be realistic about all of this and I’m trying to be. As much as possible, anyway… I mean, oosh! I’m just so excited, Alex! I CANNOT BELIEVE this is HAPPENING!�

“Neither can I! It’s amazing! I mean, just a few months ago, I was raving about GoldenFaçade’s maiden, and now… OH MY GAWD! You have a horse going into his first race now too! It’s like… crazy awesome!�

“I know exactly what you mean!�

Alex laughed and they continued talking for a few minutes about Alex’s horse, GoldenFacade, a 2 year old chestnut colt that Alex had raised from a weanling and trained herself. Then, Alex had to leave for work, and the two best friends said goodbye, but not before Alex offered a few more words of comfort.

“Sarah, I know if you believe in him, he’s got to be something special. So, I’m rooting for you both, girl. Tell him I said ‘kick some tail out there’!�

Moochi laughed. “I will. Thanks Alex.�

“Don’t mention it. Talk to you soon.�

“You too! Bye!�


With a click, Moochi dropped her phone back in her purse, and drove onward toward Arlington Racetrack.

As Moochi got out of her Explorer, she paused a moment to stare at the enormous racetrack. She felt shaky as she looked up at the huge grandstand, and then her eyes roved towards the barns. She moved toward them, pulling out a piece of paper from her purse. Her eyes narrowed as she read the scrawled numbers and letters there, and when she found the place she was looking for, she nearly ran right into Rick.

“Rick! Hi!�

The gruffy old man looked Moochi over as if studying her.

“You’re awfully early.�

“So are you.� Moochi said, eyeing him suspiciously.

“Well I have a right to be.� Rick sniffed. Moochi opened her mouth as if she had been slapped.

“So do I!� She said defiantly. Rick smirked and shifted his hat on his head before crossing his arms over his chest.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.�

Moochi walked past Rick, sticking her tongue out at him as she went, and stepped towards the stall that housed the three year old, unknown, unproven, completely blank slate that was Moochi’s colt, Rock Runner.

“Hey there Beau.� Moochi said softly, her voice taking on a motherly quality as she gazed at the gray colt. Immediately, he stuck his muzzle through the bars of his stall, his lips picking at her fingertips. “There’s no food there, ya goof. Besides, you’re about to race. You don’t want indigestion now, do you?� Beau tossed his head, shaking his dark gray mane and snorting, and Moochi laughed. Rick rolled his eyes behind them. “It’s a good thing I can’t SEE you, Rick.�

Rick blinked innocently as Moochi turned around to look at him.

“I think I’ll go fer a walk. Check out the competition.� Rick muttered, and Moochi smiled as he walked away. Then, she turned back to Beau. She could tell the colt was very curious about what was going on. His eyes were wide and bright, and his ears were high as he listened to the commotion in and around the barns. Moochi kissed her fingertips and traced the white stripe on Beau’s face with them.

“You’re such a pretty boy. You know, even if you don’t win, I won’t care. You don’t have to win just to please me.� Beau eyed her for a moment, and then poked his nose through the bars again, shoving at her elbow. “But, you want to win, don’t you?� The horse pulled his skull back and bobbed it as if nodding. Then, he turned in his stall, nosing at his bedding to see if someone had left him any grain. Moochi stared at the colt for a few seconds before shaking her head and putting her hand over her eyes. “What am I doing? You don’t know what I’m saying…�

She walked over to a stool that Rick had apparently been sitting on before, for there was evidence remaining in the form of a half-empty bag of Cheetos and a canteen of something (liquor no doubt) on the seat. She opened the canteen and sniffed its contents, making a face and putting the cap back on. Then, putting aside the canteen, she picked up the bag of Cheetos and pulled out few, tossing them into her mouth. For some reason, this simple act reminded her that she would be doing the same thing she was doing now (perhaps minus the Cheetos) when it was MusicboxDancer’s turn to run in her maiden race, coming up in just four days. It was mind-boggling that all of this was happening so fast, when only a few months ago, she had been practically homeless (okay, not exactly), living with her boyfriend Seth in his apartment in New York. He was, like Moochi, an artist, and though he was not terribly well known at the moment (nor was she), he had been able to support both of them on his income. But, Moochi had not been satisfied with that. She had wanted to pitch in, or at least find a way so that she could see Seth without feeling like she was living off him… like a parasitic leech-like… thing. Her dream had always been to build her own horse ranch, and when that dream went further, delving into the idea to create a fully operational racing farm, Moochi had started saving. She saved what little she got straight out of college, and built on from there, painting for pay, and even trying her hand at writing articles for various magazines and newspapers. She started advertising her work at galleries, and before long, she had made enough to start looking for places to begin making her dream a reality.

When she had found the ‘little’ farm that was to be the future Artful Acres, Moochi had immediately placed an offer on it. She was amazed a few days later when she received a call from the realtor, saying that the owners had accepted the offer. She remembered her delight at first pulling down the For Sale sign, and hugging the front door to her new home, Seth right behind her taking photos with his picture-phone.

Popping another Cheeto, Moochi stopped in mid-chew to glance sideways as Seth walked into the barn, stopping beside her.

“Well, speak of the devil.� Moochi grinned, standing up and offering Seth a Cheeto. He opened his mouth and she popped it in, kissing his cheek. “Glad you could make it.�

“The traffic here is awful.�

“Worse than New York?�

“That’s not traffic, love, that’s culture.�


“It’s alright. It takes a specific type of mind to sense the difference between the two.� Seth said, pointing at the top of his brown-haired head. Moochi grabbed his hand and pulled him to the stool, then sat on his lap, twirling his hair between her fingers.

“You mean the delusional type?� Moochi smirked, and Seth flicked her nose, smiling back.

Rick found them a moment later.

“AHEM… children.� Rick said in his gruff way, but at the same time, a smile pulled at his lips.

“What–Oh, sorry.â€� Moochi said, grinning sheepishly and sliding off Seth’s lap. Seth chuckled.

“You’re early too.� Rick said, eyeing the boy. Seth just shrugged. “Well, Black’s gonna want to see the colt soon. He says the both of ‘em have to size each other up a bit before the race.� Moochi raised an eyebrow, and Rick just shook his head. Seth looked at Moochi, then at Rick, and then back again.

“Huh?� Seth finally asked.

“The jockey. He’s seen Beau a few times before, but he says he’d rather have some more time to get to know him before they head out on the track. He’s weird like that.�

“Oh.� Seth said simply, blinking.

“He’s got quite a… look to him, doesn’t he?�

Moochi watched as the jockey she had carefully chosen for Beau, walked around the colt, feeling his muscles and scrutinizing him carefully. Silently, the girl wondered what it was the jockey was really looking for, but kept her mouth shut.

“What ‘look’ is he talking about?� Seth whispered to Rick. Rick just shrugged and rolled his eyes for the 2nd time that day.

“He’s a nice colt. Good muscle on him. You’ve done well with him.�

Rick nodded his head, as if accepting the compliment, and inwardly Moochi was a tad jealous. After all, SHE had been the one training the colt up until a few weeks ago. It had been HER hard work that had gone into making this colt what he was up until then! She sighed, and after a moment, the feeling passed. Seth poked her arm. He was still looking straight ahead as she looked back at him.

“What?� She whispered. He pointed ahead at something in the distance. She looked in the same direction he was, and put a hand to her mouth. “Oh jeeze…�

Down the track, a horse was running from what appeared to be his jockey, and his trainer.

“Who’s working who?� Rick said with a grin, and Moochi shot him a look while Seth and Rock Runner’s jockey covered their smiles, as if they felt guilty for sharing in the joke. Just as Moochi was about to ask if they should help, however, a woman leapt over the fence that separated the track from the stands, and stopped right in front of the horse. Moochi and the men around her watched in complete awe as the horse skidded to a stop in front of her, looking confused. The woman stood her ground for a moment before turning around and walking away. Amazingly, the horse followed her.

“She’s got class, that lady!� Black said with his eyes wide in awe.

“Who is she?� Rick asked the jockey, surprising Moochi. Rick wasn’t one to be kept in the dark about anything for very long, and she had been certain that he knew, or was aware of, everyone at the track that day. Moochi even used to tease him about how he knew so much when, by nature, he didn’t like to talk a lot. Rick had said it was simply because he listened so much, and knew the right questions to ask to learn all the information he needed. “And if you were smart, you’d stop and take a listen, too,� he had said, and Moochi had given him a mocking glare. Rick just knew her far too well.

“Dunno. I don’t recognize her. I’ll ask one of the boys later.� By ‘the boys,’ Moochi assumed Black meant the other jockeys, but she again kept her mouth shut, her head still trying to work out who this mysterious woman could possibly be.

She was pulled from her thoughts once again as Seth poked her… again.

“How long until the races start?”

Overhearing this, Rick checked his watch.

“Won’t be for another few hours…”

“Great! Let’s go!” Seth said, grabbing Moochi by the arm and dragging her away.

“Where are we going?”

“I’m starving! We’re getting some grub before either one of us passes out.”


With a now full-to-bursting stomach, and a feeling like she would never eat again, Moochi opened the door to Beau’s stall and leaned against the wall. Beau lifted his head from his water bucket, his muzzle dripping as he looked at Moochi expectantly.

“C’mere boy.” Moochi said softly, and the horse loyally complied, moving over to her and resting his muzzle on her shoulder. She patted the horse’s silky neck, and he gave her a nudge on the shoulder in reply, allowing her to tickle underneath his forelock. He grunted in contentment as she pulled out a brush and started to work on his already glossy coat. Though he didn’t really need it, Moochi knew a good brush was something the colt enjoyed, and she believed it would relax both of them. Before long, she heard someone clearing his throat behind her. “Rick?”

“Time to go.” Rick said simply, and she heard the shuffle of his feet as he went to stand beside her. Beau let out a deep breath that sounded much like a sigh, as Rick scratched behind his ears.

“Already?” Moochi asked, still brushing along Beau’s side. Rick stepped back, pulling his hat from his head, and in that moment the girl caught a rare glimpse of Rick’s balding skull. But then, with a wipe of his brow, the legendary balding skull disappeared again behind cheap blue material and the embroidered words ‘Duke University’ in white—thus shutting away another of the world’s great wonders.

“Yep.” Rick replied simply, clipping a lead rope onto Beau’s halter. Moochi got out a blue blanket and draped it over Beau’s back. Then, she followed Rick out of the stall, pausing at the stall door to watch the man lead her horse towards the saddling station…

To Be Continued… :smiley: