A Mile?

King of the Wind – painting by Wesley Dennis

Ann climbed into the shiny car, pushed a load of cosmetics off the seat and drove to the track. Turning her ball cap backwards to keep it on in the convertible, she arrived at the track looking like an over-aged thug. Righting her ball cap in the car’s mirror and doing her best to make herself look presentable she looked up to see Jude Keenan staring bewildered at his assistant trainer driving his girlfriend’s car -the girlfriend that he hadn’t expected to see this day.

“Don’t even ask” she sighed.  “you’re safe for another hour until she gets to the bottom of that pitcher of margaritas at Pepe’s.  Then she’s all yours. I’m finished girlfriend-sitting today.”

“I thought she wouldn’t be back in town until tomorrow. What’s up?”  he asked.

 Ann glared in return, ignored the question and instead asked “How’s Viya Con Dios?”

“That old man will be fine. Bummer that we’ll have to scratch for tomorrow. It was a good race for him. Of course Wells already has an allowance race picked out for him next week.”

“There’s no five furlong allowance race coming up on the grass next week.”

“He figures that the old guy could go a mile on the new track.” 

“A MILE?  He’s out of his head!  A mile would kill that horse!”  

“Don’t worry, we’ll come up with something. Maybe we can send him down to Los Alamitos and run him next week.”

This was her worst fear for the horse. The night races at Los Alamitos were cheap and fast. The purses were small and the only reason to send a horse there was to get them claimed in a race so that they weren’t your problem anymore. There was a time and a place to get a horse out of your barn.  But this horse needed to retire and he deserved the retirement that she planned for him. With close to a fifty horses in and out of their barn every year, some horses worked their way under your skin, no matter how tough you thought you were and this horse was one of them. It went against her philosophy to interfere with the business end of the barn, but she felt even more responsible that she had something to do with him tying up this morning and the pain he was in right now. She mustered up all the strength she could and said; “Look, I managed your girlfriend for you today, you owe me one.  I’m gonna talk to the Wells’ today and just ask them to donate that horse this week to my friend up North.”

“Like your friend needs another broke down old racehorse that doesn’t know how to be anything but a racehorse. You both know you can’t put little kids on a tough old campaigner like him. Be reasonable.  He’s probably got 5 or 6 races in him and the Wells’ are loving being in the winner’s circle for a change after that ratty mare they tried to run for years.”

He knew she was right, but her back was up and she was ready to play dirty. “Well, maybe I’ll just go and pick up a certain someone in her car and bring her over to the races. She and I didn’t have much of a chance to catch up in that noisy bar today.”

Jude’s surgically crafted nostrils flared and his pupils dilated. She could have sworn that one of his perfectly coiffed hairs jumped out of place “You wouldn’t.”

In response, she cocked her hip and dangled the keys with the pink sparkly “Julie” written in script in his face.

“Jeezus you’re a bitch.”  he replied.  “I’ll call Wells myself. Tell the van to pick him up on Sunday.”

“He won’t be well enough to travel until Tuesday.”  She giggled enjoying the upper hand.  Not too many people got to hold one over on Jude Keenan and she savored every moment.

“Great, now I have to feed that old bastard for four more days?”

“Yup, and we are shipping him up with a blanket and those electrolyte supplements that we don’t use.  She can use all the supplies she can get these days.”

“And what do we get for all this trouble?”  he asked.

“A good night’s sleep – that’s what.”

“Baby, I got no problems sleeping.”  he sneered.  “Anyhow, why don’t you send a few bags of that grain they sent us as a promo.  I don’t think our horses like it.”

“Careful, someone might think you’re growing a heart. Anyway; it’s a deal. Now get out of my way, I have to change clothes before the race.”

“I’ll say. You look like a grubby little gallop girl who just got off 12 horses.”

“And you look like a guy who has been out all night.  Better find a razor before Julie gets here – or you’ll have explaining to do.”

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