Authors: Steven Farley
lec recalled yesterday's race and the drive into the shadow. Somehow he sensed that the Black was remembering that moment, too. Alec felt the stallion's muscles tightening. Usually the Black ran for the joy of running. Now it felt forced, as if he didn't want to throw his legs down one in front of the other.
Alec looked up at the Black. What was happening to his beloved horse? Overhead he heard the flapping of the flag. Whipped by the wind, it sounded like a taunting laughâ¦
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The Black Stallion
The Black Stallion Returns
Son of the Black Stallion
The Island Stallion
The Black Stallion and Satan
The Black Stallion's Blood Bay Colt
The Island Stallion's Fury
The Black Stallion's Filly
The Black Stallion Revolts
The Black Stallion's Sulky Colt
The Island Stallion Races
The Black Stallion's Courage
The Black Stallion Mystery
The Black Stallion and Flame
Man o' War
The Black Stallion Challenged!
The Black Stallion's Ghost
The Black Stallion and the Girl
The Black Stallion Legend
The Young Black Stallion
(with Steven Farley)
Black Stallion books
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The Black Stallion's Shadow
The Black Stallion's Steeplechaser
A RANDOM HOUSE BOOK
Copyright Â© 1996 by Steven Farley
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Random House, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Distributed by Random House, Inc., New York.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 94-41239
and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
For valuable advice and support, I'd like to thank my editor, Jenny Fanelli, and two of the film world's most renowned horse trainers, Glen Randall Sr. and Corky Randall.
To Val and Or
t was American Cup day at Santa Anna, the highlight of the winter racing season. Less than forty-five minutes remained before the race. Down in the windowless jockeys' room, Alec Ramsay stood in front of his open locker. He took a deep breath to calm his nerves. The air tasted of saddle soap and sweat.
Alec always felt a little uneasy before a big race, but today his stomach was doing flip-flops. He hoped the worry didn't show. A mirror hung on the inside of the locker door. In the glass Alec could see his tanned face, high forehead and close-cropped red hair. Clear plastic riding goggles hung loosely from his neck. His expression gave away nothing despite the hollowness he felt inside.
Aside from the banks of lockers lining the walls, the jockeys' room looked and sounded like a subterranean recreation center. TV monitors hung from the ceiling.
Game and card tables, installed to help the jockeys relax between races, were crowded. Small groups of tough, wiry men lounged about playing cards or Ping-Pong to pass the time. Like Alec, most wore long terry-cloth bathrobes. They bantered in Spanish and English.
A replay of the sixth race flashed by on the closed-circuit TV monitors. Alec looked over to the nearest screen. His eyes followed the horses crossing the finish line, but his thoughts remained far away.
The local papers were predicting an upset for his horse, the Black, in the American Cup race. Ordinarily Alec would think of such talk as a promotional gimmick to draw more fans to the track. But this time the sports gossip bothered him more than usual.
No horse could keep winning races forever, Alec knew, not even the Black. The fact haunted him. Could he push his horse until the day some young giant-killer dealt the stallion a humiliating defeat? The current West Coast champion, an unbeaten colt named Ruskin, just might be the one to do it. Taking on Ruskin would have been tough even at Belmont or Aqueduct, Alec's local New York tracks. Here on Ruskin's home turf it could prove devastating.
To make matters worse, Alec needed this raceâand the $250,000 purseâbadly. A win would pump up the prices for Hopeful Farm's stock at the yearling sale next week back in New York. The Black was, in effect, representing all the other horses on the farm. If Alec's family couldn't get top dollar for their horses, it meant trouble for the financially strapped farm. Alec swallowed. His
body felt tense and his throat was dry. Too much was at stake for this to be just another race.
Picking up the light racing saddle and pads, Alec walked over to the scales to weigh out. The frail, white-faced clerk of the scales watched the needle swing to 110 pounds and steady. The clerk marked a piece of paper attached to his clipboard. “Okay, Ramsay, that'll do,” he said, and motioned Alec to get down. “Next.”
Some of the other riders in the seventh race were already making their way along the basement hallway. Alec passed the security guard posted at the door and followed after them. They climbed a worn staircase leading to ground level.
As the jockeys filed into the paddock Alec caught sight of the Black. Never before was there such a magnificent horse, Alec thought. The Black was one of a kind.
The Black's trainer, Henry Dailey, walked the stallion back and forth in front of the dozen partitioned saddling stalls that ran the length of the paddock. Alec watched his horse move as if seeing him for the first time. The stallion held his small Arabian head high atop a long graceful neck joining a thoroughbred's body. Sunlight glistened on the jet black of his coat. At seventeen hands the Black was a giant of a horse, a study in beauty and well-balanced muscles. Every part fit together perfectly. Henry put it simply: “The Black has what a horse is supposed to have and has it where a horse is supposed to have it.”
The old trainer spotted Alec, and his impish blue eyes lit up. Alec smiled back. Aside from the difference in their ages, Alec and Henry were much alike. Between them was
a bond as strong as bloodâthe love of horses, and of one horse in particular, the Black.
Alec looked up at the tote board recording the wagering for the upcoming race. Despite the Black's experience and near-flawless record, the odds makers favored Ruskin to win the American Cup today. Who could blame them? Earlier that season the colt had shattered track records at nearby Hollywood Park and Del Mar Racetrack outside of San Diego. One sportswriter said that Ruskin must have an Indy 500 car in his bloodlines.
Ruskin was what every established champion feared most: a hard-charging up-and-comer hungry for victory. Alec saw him waiting patiently in his open-ended saddling stall. Ruskin's copper-colored coat set off the curves and bulges of deep shoulders and a broad back. The coat seemed drawn too tight, as if he were outgrowing it. Thick layers of muscle filled out his tremendous neck and quarters. Ruskin's jockey would be Hector Morales, a Santa Anna regular with a fine record of his own. Alec knew this was going to be a tight race, and he was getting more nervous by the second.
“Take ahold there, Alec,” Henry said as he handed Alec the reins. Henry bent down to tighten the saddle's girth strap. The Black raised a hind leg and stomped the ground. “Whoa,” Henry said firmly. The Black's eyes were bright and alert. He dipped his head and restlessly chewed at the bit in his mouth. Alec faced his horse and gently rubbed the Black's forehead.