The day started out fine. No clue to the nightmare it held. I awoke, my golden brown hair in a tangled mess, and leaned over, to kiss my husband's cheek. "Mike. Wake up, sweetie. Its derby day." His eyes flew open, remembering the colt waiting at Churchill downs. Our hotel was a 20 minutes drive away, and the derby started in 6 hours. In just hours, I would be riding Pride and Joy, a beautiful colt that looked just like his father, in the Kentucky Derby.
I jumped out of bed, as Mike groaned, and rolled over. "Lazy!" I called, and grabbed my jeans, and old boots. "I have to be there in 2 hours for Matchmaker's maiden." Matchmaker, a huge, blood bay colt, that we had bought at a auction as a yearling. He had certainly filled out, and with his stellar bloodlines, his mother a direct descendant of Secretariat, and his father was Townsend Prince, who had won several stakes races before retiring. The colt was a handful, and had a bad temper, but I adored him.
I was dressed well before Mike even woke, and out the door, headed to the track. First, I walked to Matchmakers stall, to check on him. "Hey pretty boy." I murmured, reaching up to rub his brown nose. He snorted, and shook his huge head.
"Prince does throw some nice foals." I heard an all-to-familiar-but-still-so irrating voice.
"Yes, he does." I admitted, and turned around to face Brad Townsend. "I have some great expectations out of this one."
"Its his maiden today, am I right?" Brad asked, stepped forward to inspect the 2-year old colt. I nodded. "His breezes times are spectacular. Better than some of my stakes 3 year olds."
"Is that a compliment, Brad? I didn't know you were capable of complimenting a Whitebrook horse." I said sarcastically.
"I can be nice." He whispered, so quiet I wasn't sure I was meant to hear. For the first time, I noticed his wedding ring wasn't on his hand. I didn't ask about it, afraid of one of his more usual replies.
"Well I have to go…Race in a bit. You can stay here, as long as you don't freak out Matchmaker." I kissed the colt's nose, and ran to get ready.
"Riders up!" The announcer shouted over the voices of the crowd, as I stood next to Matchmaker. Mike was no where to be seen. I shrugged, figuring he was talking to some bigshot horse seller, and let Ian McLean give me a leg up. The paint pony horse led us out for the post parade.
Matchmaker wasn't the favorite, but his odds weren't bad either. 10-1. The prancing colt caught a lot of eyes, his coat a flame in the sun, and the black on his feet a dark ebony. His huge strides ate up ground, as we headed for the gates.
The first few horses went in without a fuss, but Matchmaker, the number 5, reared up, and snorted, refusing to go in. He planted his feet, and wouldn't budge. Finally, he went in, but he didn't like it. The last horse went in, and the stands got silent. The bell rang, and the horses sprang free.
Matchmaker surged to the lead, several lengths ahead in a matter of seconds. It stayed that way the whole race. I couldn't even see the other horses, as we entered the backstretch, and leaned forward, asking him for more. He flew under me, but the blinding speed we went at was effortless. He won, 14 lengths ahead.
Usually, I would have been happy. But Mike wasn't waiting in the winner's circle.