Now here's a shot I nearly tossed out because it didn't come out as clean as I wanted it to. It didn't because this was the shot where I realized I had a hell of a battle on my hands and I had to make a decision on who to zoom in on for the finish. This was the last moment I focused on Rene. Here's what happened:
The kid is good. He is eighteen years old and has been riding professionally for less than two years. His win percentage? A staggering 23%. He wins one out of every five races he runs in. That means today he will win at least two. Some kids, they're just born with it. The horse he's on? It's good. A maiden, but good. In fact, in this field it's much the best. Some of them, they're just born with it. The jockey on the Number Three knows this. The kid goes into the starting gate. A few seconds later, the assistant pulls him into the stall next to him. The doors slam shut behind them both and now they wait for the rest of the field.
It's a messy break. When the gates spring open, eight maiden horses zig zag out like a pinball machine that let all the balls out at once. They ping off of each other and bounce in different directions. Somehow in the mess the kid ends up to the right of him, now on the outside and down and center where he's got more room to run. But we're not about to let him get away with it. He goes in for a low drive, head up and straight. He is scrubbing his horse like a madman, encouraging him to lay it all out, stretch nose to tail, get low to the track. With a whoop he realizes he is in hot pursuit of the kid and his black bolt, the only one with a chance to beat him, him and his staggering win percentage. Somewhere to his left the Number One horse is snorting like a freight train, but he's no threat. It's that damned kid. He's got to focus on that damned kid. For three hundred and fifty yards the rivalry brings the crowd to its feet. The opportunity to beat the kid is so agonizing, tantalizingly close. He's at the kid's saddle cloth, if he can stretch a little more, maybe he can reach his throat latch. Maybe maybe he can jump one good jump before the finish.
But it is the fourth race of the day and that kid...that kid on that black horse whose nose just won't leave my frame, whose nose remains in the foreground, in the front, always in the front....well, he hasn't won a race yet today. And it's time to defend some percentages.
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