Oakwood Farms -- At The Races

“So, you still think you’ve got a good one here?”

Juli turned at the voice of Len Kravat, he was a handicapper at Woodbine, where Juli was today waiting to see one of her horses race. She had known Len for years, he was a friend of her fathers.

“Yes Len, I still think he’s a good horse, he’s only had eight starts!”

“Yeah well, what has he done, come in fourth once or twice?”

Juli shook her head, if an older horse didn’t show any talent in the start of his career, Len believe they were duds. Juli didn’t know why, but she wasn’t about to ask him, she might end up with an hour lecture on something totally irrelevant to the question asked.

“So how’d your other horse do today, the six-year old was the one racing wasn’t he?”

“Yes, Golden Approval went out in the Arlington Sprint today.”

“How’d he do?”

“Not so good, competition was way to much for him, finished 9th/10.”

Len waved a finger in her direction.

“I told you missy, buying that old horse wasn’t going to do you any good.”

“Despite the fact that since I’ve had him out of four starts he’s won two times?”

Len glared at her. Juli just laughed, the old man hated it when she came back at him with an answer like that. She turned and looked inside the paddock where the horses started to appear.  Her horse, Wishforme walked alongside his groom agitated. He was prancing on the end of the lead throwing his head into the air. This was quite a change, usually he walked out as calm as could be. Today he was wired.

She walked over to Wish’s saddling area where her trainer Cole Sylvan stood trying to put the saddle on the horse.

“Well he seems ready today.”

Cole smiled briefly at Juli then quickly sidestepped as Wish violently kicked out.

“Yea, we changed his feed and his training schedule a few weeks ago, he hasn’t galloped in two days, if he doesn’t run today, I won’t know what to tell you.”

The announcement for riders up blared over the speakers. Cole gave Wish’s jockey a leg up and the horse pranced off with the jockey toward the track.

Juli and Cole walked to the rail and waited for the horses to reach the track. Wish was the first to reach the track. His groom tried to hand him over to the outrider, but before he could Wish reared up on his hind legs and tried to bolt. His groom kept a hold of him though and finally the outrider had a hold on him. The horses walked down the track toward the gate and all throughout the post parade and warm-up Wish was trying to bite the pony and had spurts of bucking. Once they reached the starting gate Wish was handed over to a starter. The crew let the other horses load before Wish, a wise decision because even out of the gate the horse couldn’t stand still.

It was finally Wish’s turn to get it the gate. He protested, bucking and rearing and throwing a huge tantrum out on the track. Finally the starters were able to get him in the gate where they faced another problem, keeping him still. The moments were agonizing, the horse wouldn’t settle. Juli froze as he almost flipped over. Finally they seemed to calm him and the other horses.

With her binoculars glued to her face Juli watched as Wish froze in the gate, she could see his muscles shivering from the rail. With a clang the gates opened and six horses flew out of the gate. Wish barreled to the lead his jockey straining to hold him back. By the first furlong he settled down nicely and his stride ate up the ground effortlessly. By the quarter he was 5 lengths in front with an easy lead, and very slow fractions. As the horses flew down the track he kept gaining his lead, even though he was barely straining. By the 3/4 pole he had a huge lead and the jockey was as still as a statue on his back.

Finally the jockey kissed to him and with little urging Wish flew around the last turn and into the final stretch. The other horses struggled to catch up with him, but it was to late. Wish flashed past the wire 12 1/4 lengths in front of the other horses. He had finally broken his maiden, with a snail’s pace of a time, but he had won it going away.

Juli smiled knowing that every horse has his day.

A few days later Juli was again at the track, this time to watch her filly Charlene. She was one of two maidens today, though the other maiden had placed in stakes races. Juli wasn’t hoping for much, just a solid performance from her mare.

The horses stepped onto the track and Juli’s eyes searched for her bay mare. She was in post position 3 today. The horses walked down the track towards the starting gate, Charlene walked calmly beside her pony looking this way and that. Reaching the gate the starters each grabbed a horse. Charlene was loaded first into the gate. She calmly followed the starter and stepped into the gate. She stood quietly while the other five horses were loaded, was unfazed when the horse beside her reared up. Finally every horse was still and in that split second the gates swung open with a loud clang and six thoroughbreds charged out.

Charlene leaped out of the gate and took the lead. By the 1/4 pole she had an easy 3 length lead but was throwing down fast fractions. By the 1/2 she was seven lengths in front and still was clocking off very fast fractions. As the horses powered around the turn Juli watched helplessly as the five other horses started gaining on her mare. As they came around the turn Charlene’s lead had been cut down to one length. It looked hopeless.

Juli looked through her binoculars and watched as her mares ears flickered back and forth, seeming like she was waiting for the jockey to tell her something. The jockey started moving on her back and with a quick swat on her hindquarters Charlene exploded down the stretch, it seemed as though her mare had been toying with the other horses. She passed the wire 6 1/4 lengths in front of the field.

Juli leapt out of her seat and pushed her way down the stands. She met Charlene and her jockey as they trotted back to the winners circle. Grabbing the mare’s bridle Juli looked up to the jockey Alexander Xevantos and gave him a high-five. She and Alexander had known eachother since they were kids, his father had ridden for her dad while he had owned thoroughbreds.

Alexander looked down at her, eyes twinkling.

“Didn’t I tell you she was something special?”

“Don’t go counting your chickens just yet Alex, this wasn’t anything but an Allowance race.” She admonished.

He smirked.

“Did you see the time?”

Juli turned toward the board and her jaw dropped when she saw it. New Record! flashed on the board. Her little mare had just broken the record for 13 1/2 furlongs. She had shaved almost two seconds off Champion Wingsonmyhooves time.

Maybe Alex was right, maybe this mare was something special.