By: Girl Bard
Disclaimer: Please see Part 1.
How in the hell did this get leaked to the press? Throwing the paper down in frustration, I storm through the barn, ignoring the surprised looks coming my way.
The filly just colicked a few nights ago, and already its the front page of the sports section. I didnt think Dena was going to issue a press release, but she must have. I guess it doesnt make any matter if the media knows; they will have a field day with the story. This means nosy reporters will bombard the barn. Great.
I stop at the paddock gate, observing the bright red filly contentedly grazing in the pasture.
Shes going to be fine, and is actually acting normal. We still have no idea what brought upon the episode of colic; the vet could find nothing wrong even after giving the filly an ultrasound. He was happy to report that we caught the episode early enough that no damage was done.
Soon after getting her up and walking, the filly eliminated and seemed to feel a lot better. If no one had found her until the morning, it might have been a different case.
Im grateful I decided to check on the horses; though its surprising to me that no one else noticed the fillys plight. Mayas initials are on the board for the 1:00am check, but she swears the filly was fine at that time.
I took Elmer out only an hour after Mayas late-night check, and it seems to me that the groom should have noticed something was amiss with the filly. Horses usually show some signs before going into an episode of colic, but I have to give the groom the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she saw Baby down in her stall and thought she was sleeping. Then entire thing still kind of sketches me out, to be perfectly honest. Something isnt right.
I think Dena suspects something too, she is being extra careful now.
Needless to say, after this event, Dena has installed a 24-hour monitoring system in the barns and pastures and has monitors in her room and office. She also has decided to hire several people to act as barn security and keep a constant watch over all the horses. Until she finishes interviewing people, we have all pitched in to check the barns more often during the night.
Baby has a clean bill of health, the vet advised us to take it easy with her for a few days, so the filly has been turned outside 24-hours a day. This will keep her grazing and moving, further decreasing the risk of her colicking again.
Ill jog her tomorrow lightly, and then we are scheduled to head back to Belmont. Dena might push back our arrival by a few days in order to give the filly as much relaxing home time possible.
The rain is slowly clearing there, but track reports still list the surface as wet. Well make the call after jogging Baby tomorrow. If she acts like shes ready to go, well fly her up with Elmer.
The big race is only six days away, and the thought of riding and going for the Triple Crown still makes my knees go weak. Im just thankful the filly will be well enough to run.
Well go from there.
Ive always had a love-hate relationship with the starting gate. For me, its one of the most exciting parts of the race, anything can happen and its a completely fresh start.
Or it can be the scariest part of the race, if you get thrown, or your horse stumbles coming out.
Sometimes its simply a waiting game, as it is today, in what could be the biggest race of Babys and my life.
The Belmont. Only 12 horses in history have won this race following victories in the Derby and Preakness.
Babys father, the great A.P. Indy won this race.
Julie Krone, the first woman to ever win a Triple Crown race won this race riding Colonial Affair, in 1991.
I remember watching her ride, amazed at how a little girl jock could beat the boys on a long shot horse. That was the first moment I decided I wanted to be a jockey. I wanted to be Julie Krone.
Little was I to know I would be the first woman in history to win the Derby and the Preakness. Its amazing; to look at someone Ive idolized my entire life and realize that Ive done the same thing.
The last horse is in and I glance to either side of me. Both Dena and myself are less than thrilled with our postposition of number 12, because it is so far on the outside and because it means Baby and I were the first to load.
In a big field of horses, like todays Belmont that features 15 horses, all trying to stop Baby and I from winning the Triple Crown, they load horses two at a time. So the filly has had to patiently wait here while 14 other horses acted up and balked at the gate.
"And theyre off!" The announcers voice rings with the bell of the starting gate.
The bright chestnut Lightfoot, in the number 11 post bolts to the front, just like he did in the Derby. The filly surges after him and I let the slick leather of the reins slide through my hands. Homebred, immediately to my right, stumbles out of the gate in the sloppy track and roughly bumps Babys hindquarters, sending her sliding into Lightfoot.
The sudden feeling of my normally smooth-striding filly sliding through the mud makes my heat spin. I try to stick close to her neck, clinging with all of my might in order not to go down beneath the pack of steel-shod hooves.
"Whoa!" I yell to the filly as I stand almost upright in my irons and yank her head back to avoid taking the chestnut down.
Shaking her head with anger and her hooves still sliding in the mud, Baby allows me to pull her up. I glance over my shoulder, my heart fluttering with fear as Homebreds jockey manages to pull his horse up and narrowly avoids another collision.
"Good girl, easy." My voice remarkably stays calm as I give the filly some of the rein back. She stretches out and regains her smooth stride, but it is too late for us to get to the front. Weve lost a ton of ground, and I know the chances of winning after such a horrible start are practically nil.
All that matters now is bringing the filly back safely. The track is obviously worse than it looks, and we have to be careful to avoid sliding horses and the deep and muddy rail position.
We trail the field, and I can feel from the fillys urgent pace that shed be much happier closer to the front. I cant run the risk of tiring her out by sprinting now, well have to bide our time for the stretch dual.
Rounding the first turn, Im able to see the pace horse GlitteryGold leading the pace, and from the way hes drawing away, hes making incredible time. That means hell have nothing left for the stretch. The fast Lightfoot, who thankfully wasnt injured in the start presses GlitteryGold, and just like in the Derby his stablemate Foghorn is poised to take the lead from both pace horses down the stretch.
Its clever thinking by Lewis, but Ill be damned if I let that asshole beat us. Ca-Ching and Sea Storm, the two grays, tail Foghorn followed by the tightly bunched pack of the rest of the field.
Only Homebred and my filly trail the pack. I take hold of Babys reins a little more, hoping shell settle and save herself for the stretch. Under the gentle coaxing of my voice, the filly surprisingly is calming herself down and has stopped shaking in anger about not being at the front of the pack.
Mud flying in our faces, the fillys long black mane whips in the wind as I wipe dirt and muck from my goggles. Its rough going out here today, and no horse looks like its striding effortlessly.
The start is still upsetting me, especially when I realize how easy it would have been for Baby to lose her footing and go down in the mud.
I give a quick thank you to any higher power; I dont know if I would have had the strength in the Derby to pull Baby back because of my injuries. Its amazing what a few weeks can do for a persons healing; I only have a slight tinge in my chest and back right now rather than the constant pain I had a few weeks after my accident.
We round the second turn and the horses start spreading out to make their moves. Now I have to find a hole to slip Baby in, and the competitiveness of this field and quality of horses arent going to make it easy.
The rail. I blink quickly to see if my eyes are deceiving me. It looks like a completely clear path lies against the rail. If I can squeeze Baby through, well be home free. Of course, it will be deeper and muddier than the rest of the track, but well just have to take that chance.
"Yah!" I call to the filly who responds with a powerful surging of her hind legs. We slip through the hole, and I let the slick leather slip through my hands as Baby sprints up to the rest of the pack. Hollywood Joe to our right makes a move to go through the hole just as Baby and I sprint up, and I have to give the filly a little kick to get her moving so we dont cause an accident.
We beat Hollywood Joe for the opening, and as we go through his jockey steers him behind us. At the same moment, Cassat on Foghorn close the hole in front of us, effectively trapping us in.
The stretch looms ahead as we round the far turn. Time and distance are not on our side, if Im going to let Baby have a chance for the stretch dual, I need to find a path, and now.
Lightfoot is spent, and drops back in the field. Sea Storm takes the lead, followed by Ca-Ching and Ten Dollar Bill. The rest of the pack is bunched tightly around us, and the filly has nowhere to go.
Im a complete moron. I eagerly fell for this trap, like the most ignorant jock.
"Make room!" I yell to Ten Dollar Bills jock, the experienced Jose Panell. He acts like he doesnt even hear me, and with the pounding of the hooves around me he might not.
Panells horse is directly in front of me, and although it seems like he has room enough to run and allow us to slip through, the jock wont take advantage of it.
I try my other option, gently encouraging the filly to move further and further out toward Hollywood Joe who is to our right. His jock holds firm and wont move out, even when the two shoulders of the horses practically touch.
Halfway down the stretch, I can barely make out the forms of Sea Storm and CaChing as they battle Foghorn for the lead. Ten Dollar Bill is laboring, his strides in front of me becoming uneven and slow.
"Come on, quit." I chant to the colt, knowing if he starts to drop back we should be able to squeeze through.
I need to be more aggressive or we will lose this race. The wire looms closer and I know we should have made our move a furlong ago.
"YAH!" I call to the filly as we squeeze through the tiny opening between Panells colt and the rail. The surprised jock glances as my tiny filly blows through the opening and overtakes the tired colt.
Swerving away from the rail to avoid Sea Storm, the filly draws even with CaChing. Foghorn is two lengths ahead, and even if my filly were fresh it would be difficult to catch him with the ever-approaching wire.
"Go Baby!" My frantic voice urges the filly as I give her full rein. She pushes neck out, unusual for her and uses all her remaining strength to overtake the large colt.
Its not enough time. I use my whip twice, knowing weve run out of room. Baby is running with all of her heart and soul, but the awful start, track conditions, my mistakes, and grueling race have all contributed to the defeat of the filly in her quest for the Triple Crown.
Drawing even with Foghorn, I see the wire immediately above the colts head. With a final surge of energy, the filly and colt sweep under the wire together.
Standing in my irons, I frantically look at the tote board. Its flashing photo finish, and I close my eyes briefly in defeat, knowing there is no way we could have won.
"Im sorry." I repeat over and over as I pat the fillys slick neck. She ran her heart out for me, but my stupid mistakes cost her and Dena their deserved victory. Cassat glances at me from his perch on Foghorn.
"Congratulations." He calls, defeat evident in his voice.
"I should be saying that to you." I reply as we jog our horses together, the crowd around us screaming and cheering.
"Your filly won, by the tip of her white nose." The jock responds, a sad grin on his face. "Never thought Id see a filly win the Triple Crown, let alone almost take it from her." He adds before giving Foghorn more rein and riding away.
My head whips around and find the tote board still inconclusive. Was Cassat right? Does he really think that we won or is he just saying that? It would be cruel for him to tell me that Baby and I won if we really didnt.
But he was on the gigantic Foghorn, and able to see who won the race more clearly.
I pull off my mud-covered goggles and wipe off my face. The attending rider comes to collect the filly and me and offers me a sympathetic smile. He knows how frustrating and nerve-wracking this is and I am grateful he doesnt try to talk to me right now.
Just when I cant stand the suspense anymore, the crowd erupts with cheers and I look to see the tote board proclaiming number 12 as the winner.
Chapter 13 is the last part in the story coming soon!
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