A RUN FOR THE CUP
by Lily, 11, QLD
Crack! The explosion of the official’s starter gun echoed through the air, as my heart began to pound against my chest. The quivering mount beneath me burst eagerly from the barrier gate, her sleek, black body stretching out and then springing back as firmly and powerfully as an elastic band. I could feel her energy through my seat, poised over her neck, her eagerness to demonstrate the power that lay within. I held her back, not wishing to burn out her energy, which would diminish our chance to win. She obeyed, though rather reluctantly. We were doing just fine, boxed in by a big bay stallion and a snorting black mare. As we pounded along, my thoughts drifted.
This was The Stakes, a horse race for younger thoroughbreds to earn a career in racing, by placing or winning and hopefully being snapped up by a buyer and spurred on to a bountiful racing year. I worked for a man who trained and raced thoroughbreds to sell as bigger, more successful (and hopefully more expensive), racers. He hadn’t had a whole lot of success lately, but the horse I was riding, Black Diamond, was bringing him hope. She was nearly two, and showed a lot of
potential as a champion racer. The black filly had so far won all her maiden races and my boss wanted to build up her value as well as her record. If she kept on the way she was going, she would be a very valuable and expensive broodmare by the time she retired. This was why it was so important to win.
I was angry at myself, I needed my thoughts on the race, not my boss. I was around the middle of the pack, and slowly making my way to the front. Then, we crossed the halfway point. I decided to keep Black Diamond where she was, gently slipping past the other jockeys. Her power was unfaltering, a sleek body stretching and gathering, stretching and gathering. Her strong, flexible hooves pounded and tore at the track’s turf, leaving great gashes in the soft green padding. Soon, we were coming in third, our focus on Don Primo, the great bay beast that had been dominating first place since the start.
As we galloped into the final leg, I knew it was time to go full out. I raised my legs and brought them down firmly into Black Diamond’s sides, as my whip slashed the air and I called, ‘HUP’. She responded eagerly, as if she had been waiting for this moment. Her nostrils flared and her neck stretched out, her thunderous hooves fell into rhythm with my heart — bu-doom, bu-doom, bu-doom. Black Diamond’s sweaty flank brushed past the tiring grey mare that had held second place. Her rider shook his head, recognising defeat.
Then, there was just Don Primo and his jockey to go. He would be harder to pass as we were still in position at the rail and the only way to overtake was to push
between Don Primo’s heaving side and the hard white barrier rail. I weighed up our chances. Black Diamond was beginning to tire and the gap was small. Most horses wouldn’t be able to do it, but Black Diamond wasn’t like most horses. She was smaller, craftier and had way more heart than any other racehorse I had
ever ridden. The worst that could happen was second place and that wasn’t bad at all. But it wasn’t first. I decided to try.
I let loose a little more rein and gathered Black Diamond’s strength. I leant even further over her neck and brought my legs down on her sides. I waved the whip through the air and spurred her on with my heels. That did it. She surged forwards and squeezed through the gap, my leg knocking against the jockey’s stirrup. We were neck and neck, with twenty metres to go, when Black Diamond somehow found her last surge of energy. We were a nose ahead when the unwavering duo crossed the line.
I pulled her up to a canter, then a trot, before a tired, but triumphant walk. I dismounted and suddenly caught sight of Arlo Donatelli, my boss. He was cheering wildly, tears of joy running down his cheeks, hugging all within reach. He was an elderly man in a suit, but with more strength and stamina than any other old man I know. His shocked and elated expression betrayed all his joy at our first big win in four years. That was when I realised we had won. I turned, stunned beyond words, to Black Diamond.
“We’ve won The Stakes, my lady!” I whispered joyfully.
The mare just snorted as if she had known all along what the outcome would be. All the same, she held her head high and began a prance rather than a walk as we made our way through the scattering of tired, panting horses and their rather glum jockeys. I spotted Don Primo and his jockey, Jack Dunn. Jack looked sulky and disappointed, and he glared at me as I led Black Diamond past. I didn’t mind, for nothing could mar the memory of the day when I, Tim McArthy, won The
This is Lily’s first story published at Alphabet Soup. If YOU would like to send us a story, drawing, poem, or book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy writing!