Igor’s Hump – Installment 6

Back with Lentz and Roach, exacta ticket in hand, Jack slid into his booth and sat back waiting for the horses to load for Pimlico’s seventh race. He watched the loaders twist the tail of the Six to get her into the gate. Even then, she was thrashing around, burning up energy. “Burn, baby burn.” Jack thought. His buddies were again howling at the monitors. This time it was a race out of Delaware Park.  They had money to bet and apparently were betting with both hands.

“And, they’re off!” yelled the Pimlico track announcer. Rapid-fire, he described a good, trouble-free start. The One, the front end of Jack’s bet, immediately took the lead with the Three and Four settling in behind. The Seven, the other half of his straight Exacta, was right there as well. The rest trailed, including Doberman’s Six horse, Darla’s X-Press. She clearly was having trouble keeping to task.

The sloppy going was evident, especially on the rail. Just the same, the rider of Jack’s Seven horse had worked his way over from the outside postposition to the rail and was saving ground through the first turn. There was also bumping, as most of the jockeys tried to stay in the middle of the track. Jack worried that both of his horses had chosen sloppy rail trips through the first turn and into the backstretch. It was likely to be sapping energy that they would both need for the stretch run.

The Three runner was rating, just off the hindquarters of the front-runner, his jockey practically standing up in the irons, trying to control his nag’s pace. It looked like he had plenty of horse. Now, where was Jack’s Seven? All that was visible was a knot of horses behind the leaders.

“Who’d you bet, Jack?” asked Lentz.  “I hope it was the Three.”

“Yeah, the Three is the goods. Going to pair-up on his top race. Two points faster than anyone else,” put in Roach. “The One should bounce.”

“I bet the One-Seven Exacta,” Jack said evenly. That sent Roach and Lentz scrambling back to The Sheetsto check if they had missed something about the Seven. Satisfied, they settled back simultaneously as if they were joined at the hip.            The field was into the far turn. Things were starting to happen. The Three slid to the outside and started to make her move on the One. There were others moving forward, as well. As they came out of the turn, the challenger drew along side of the leader’s bit. Then, the One responded, exploding into a new gear and pulling away from her nearby rival.

“Excellent, the Three’s tired. Now where’s the Seven?” thought Jack.

“Our girl’s done, Lentz,” said Roach. “How many minutes to Belmont?”

Jack watched the One cruising in front, just off the rail. He studied the monitor for a sign of the Seven’s maroon saddle cloth to emerge from the close-packed trailers. There it was!  Tiring horses allowed her to get clear on the rail, and she was taking dead aim on a second place finish and money in Jack’s pocket.

“Oh, yesss! Run you sweet thing!” Jack had almost forgotten what this felt like.

“You have the Six for second?” Lentz asked innocently.

“The Six? What do you mean, Six? That’s the Seven on the rail. That’s my One-Seven Exacta!”

The air in Jack’s balloon began to leak as he noticed a horse coming like a freight train way out in the middle of the track – the driest part of the track.  He watched in abject horror as the muck closer to the rail began to take its toll on both the One and the Seven. He couldn’t watch and wasn’t watching as the Six wore down the Seven and caught the One at the wire in glacial time.  Darla’s X-Press paid fifty-four dollars to Win.  Jack’s exacta paid squat.

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