Even for a jockey, Seraphima Snark is a midget. I grab her bony shin and give her a leg up on our Derby entry, Will of the Wisp. A few last words -- let early speed Promenading Poodles set the pace -- and it's time to go.
Track security speeds me to Wisp's owner's box. I watch the steel-gray filly and steely-eyed jock join the post parade with favorites Terrapin and Galleycat and twenty other Thoroughbreds. Rippling muscles slide under their satiny hides. They look like pure energy ready to explode.
I reassure Wisp's owner. Yes, she can run with those shoes and pads protecting her bunion-afflicted left front. Recovering from that lameness kept Wisp out of the warm-up races for the Derby. Hence her 17-1 odds. Will that ease the jitters of owner Barnabus Bollenbocker, the billionaire owner of the Wakarusa Wildcats?
Is Bock OK? From the attitude of his people, I'm guessing the white-haired owner has been as nervous as those colts and fillies on track below. Now his ruddy face looks greenish-gray. I wonder what he's thinking -- how much we spent on the filly, vet bills and shoeing? The missed races? That in two minutes it'll all be over? Or that he wished he'd passed up those onion rings at lunch?
Noticing beads of sweat across Bock's upper lip, I'm counting on veteran announcer Bat Segundo's call to ease us through these two minutes we've anticipated for years. Meantime the horses churn back of the starting gate. Wisp and Snark waltz right in. This time all the horses load easily and then --
"They're off!" Segundo hollers. Even filtered by the sound system he sounds, um, impaired?
"It's Promenading Poodles on the inside in the lead at the first turn. Slightly off the pace are Terrapin and Galleycat. Snark's taking Will of the Wisp outside running easily in fourth. Then there's a muddle of Fictional Novel, Paranormal Romance, Yellow Pages, Blogger and Dewey Decimal System running fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth ..."
"Terrapin and Galleycat are challenging Promenading Poodles -- and here comes Will of the Wisp. She's tellin' the boys 'Your mother wears Army boots!' 'Drop everything and give me ten ... books. Ten poodles. What the ... Whatever! And there's the mile in 1:37!"
Bock roars, "What's he on?"
"Pails of gin, sir."
Wisp charges alongside the leaders. Poodle fades to sixth.
Segundo thunders, "Snark goes to the whip! Here comes Will of the Wisp! It's the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd! It's a photo finish!"
Bock drops back into his seat, shaking his head. The crowd rumbles around us as "Photo finish" flashes on the board, then gives me a wry grin. "Someday I want to be the guy that watches all this from the blimp."
Snark goes to the whip! I love it!
Score to come.