The two horse trainers approached the stables on a moonlit night. There was a leap in their step, excitement writ large on their faces. 

They pushed open the swinging door and almost rushed to the far end of the pitch black innards, when Ajay turned back and switched the lights on. As they peeked in the last stall, the sight of a foal suckling it’s mother’s milk, greeted them.

Ajay looked at Rajesh and winked. Kneeling down he started rubbing the mare’s neck while Rajesh leaned against the swinging door.

“Ajay, this is our investment. I am pretty sure, we are playing the right game. All these years, we tried and failed. But as they say, try n try and one day you will surely succeed. So here we are.” Rajesh was quite chuffed with what they had pulled off.

Ajay rose up and gave a high five to Rajesh and said laughingly, “Bloody yes! This is what we were waiting for and planning all these years. These filthy deep pockets are always greedy; they earn so much from the races but are never  satisfied. They want to keep winning, keep earning huge. They just claim the foals of the winning horses, spending obnoxious amounts, their investments for the future. But no longer.”

Then looking at the foal again, he said, “But what are we waiting for? Who will earn from this exquisite specimen, you or me? I can take this or you can keep him, I don’t care. Thanks to that womanizing stud, Wind in the Tail, we are sitting on a jackpot.”

“Pff…fff, wo… womanizing stud! Are you talking about yourself, you ass hole. But what a romantic night it was for Wind in the Tail, wasn’t it”, said Rajesh, suppressing his laughter while talking.

“Yes, two mare’s in one night and that too, within 3 hours! He must thank us for giving him those passionate moments. Only we know how we planned and executed the kidnapping of Wind in the Tail from his gilded cage, the stable of that filthy rich zamindar, Chaddha. Arre Chaddha, teri chaddi utari re hamne, ha, ha, ha…”, said Ajay, bending over with laughter.

“Ha, ha… not for me, I would stay far away from Chaddha’s undies.”, Rajesh couldn’t control his mirth.

Suddenly he became serious. “So Ajay, who will take this diamond, this black beauty, this foal, eh. You or me. We need to decide today.”

“Don’t worry, dude, when Ajay is here, there is nothing to fear. See this coin, let’s…”, when he was interrupted by his friend.

“Oh, no, no, no… not a toss. You always toss and always win”, protested Rajesh.

“Arre, my Raja, my friend, there are two foals, what if the other one is not yet born. Within two weeks he will enter this world, and he will belong to the loser of the toss today. So heads you win, tails you win…we will still have one foal each, and history says; the foal of a winning horse is a surefire winner, don’t you worry.”

And with that, Ajay put the coin on his tongue, wet it on both sides and declared, “Heads I win, and tails you…” and bending slightly, he took the pose of tossing the coin in the air. Grudgingly Rajesh accepted, as he always did. 

As Ajay tossed the coin in the air, Rajesh could almost see the tails side, as the coin rotated around itself, seemingly held in mid-air. But gravity had to act, and it reluctantly began its downward journey, waiting to be caught in the eager palms of a grinning Ajay. He held it as it almost reached the mud below, and clasped his palms near his chest, as if saving it from the prying eyes of Rajesh.

“Show it, man. Why are you indulging in this drama, you shit hole?”, shouted Rajesh.

“Relax, Raja, relax”, and started opening his palms, almost in slow motion. 

“Yess, Heads it is. This foal is mine.” And he started laughing hysterically, and almost picked up the tottering foal, rubbed it’s head and released it. “And the unborn is for you, my friend. We are rich.”

A crestfallen Rajesh accompanied his friend outside, all the while wondering how he lost to his friend whenever he tossed the coin.

Within 2 weeks they were back, this time to see what nature had conjured up for Rajesh. That day, Rajesh left, satisfaction writ large on his face; his joy had a brown hue.

—-

Three years later, month of February…

The excitement was palpable in the air. The Members stand was brimming with the who’s who from the business world, the glamour of the film world, and the nouveau rich. Men in smart suits, elegant blazers, flirted with the glamorous opposite sex, dressed in their best chiffons, frilly hats, et al. 

The public enclosure was choc-a-bloc with wannabe betting enthusiasts and those that came to ogle at the elegant horses and the glamour on display in the members stand, not necessarily in that order. 

A bugle sounded and soon the horses started trotting in, into the paddock, led by two trainers on either side. The men escorting Hurricane in the City, the current champion horse, were elegantly dressed themselves, in white shirts and trim ties. The owners followed each horse along with the respective jockeys. Soon one could see the owners and the trainers planning their strategy and giving instructions to their jockeys.

As a mark of respect from the others, the star jockey, Persi Khambatta mounted Hurricane in the City and led him towards the starting gate. No one noticed the two debutant horses who were among the other horses following, except their owners.

The betting started with as low as Rs. 10 in the public enclosure, right up to a few lakhs, in the members stand. Most of the betting was on the current flavour of the racing world, a handsome stud, a black stallion, called Hurricane in the City. And there were the usual risk takers who put their faith in the also rans.

The 10 horses lined up at the starting gates, waiting to be flagged off. 

Soon they were off to a brisk pace, with Hurricane in the City leading the pack. But hey, this time he had some worthy competitors. While he was leading in the fifth lane, the shiny, black horse In lane no. 7, with the white diamond on its forehead, wasn’t far behind, who in turn was followed hot on its heels, by a brown horse with a white tail which was swaying high in the air, in lane no. 3.

At the very first bend on the oval shaped track, no. 7 overtook Hurricane in the City and a gasp escaped his supporters. Persi tried hard to pick up speed on his champion horse, but he was in for another shock, as no. 3 now overtook him. 

The three horses maintained their positions for the majority of the race, when they entered the last bend. As they banked around the curve, No. 3 just took off. The brown stud was now just a blur, eagerly followed by worried eyes in the members stand. No. 7 was hot in pursuit and fast closing in, but soon it was all over. 

The adrenaline pumping race had been won by Sir Windermere, the brown one. Almost overtaking him at the end was Dragon Tornado, the one with the diamond on its forehead. The connoisseurs were stunned; the one-two finish was by a pair of debutants. The public did not know that their owners were debutants too.

——

“Rajesh, you bastard, your freaking younger one, won today. But don’t you worry, Dragon Tornado is no child in the woods. I challenge you, the reign of Hurricane in the City is well and truly over, now Dragon Tornado will rule over the racecourse.” Ajay was a bit flustered with the result of the first race.

“Three cheers to that. But let’s open it for Sir Windermere today, the true champion.”, as Rajesh opened a bottle of whiskey, sportingly handing it over to his friend, to pour out 2 glasses.

“Cheers to Sir Windermere, cheers to Dragon Tornado.”, exclaimed Rajesh, and then added naughtily, “The wind was one up on the tornado today, wasn’t it?”

“Bah, bloody horseshit, he was just plain lucky. If there were few more meters to go, Dragon was the winner.”, Ajay was pissed off. “I tell you Raja, my Dragon is going to consume everybody in its path. Just you wait.”

But it was Ajay who had to do the waiting. The next two races were won by Sir Windermere on the trot, that too, quite convincingly. This went on for 2 more years, Sir Windermere was the toast of the racing world and Ajay’s frustrations mounted.

Ajay started burning with jealousy; jealous of his friend’s success, jealous of his friend’s horse, Sir Windermere. As he drowned his sorrows in the bottle, he cursed his luck, or lack of it.

——

Rajesh was a worried man, as he tried to relax in his jacuzzi. His friend of so many years was now keeping his distance. And he thought he knew the reason. He himself was now enjoying the high life, thanks to Sir Windermere, but extremely disturbed that his friend was far away from him. He tossed and turned throughout the night and come morning, he had made his decision.

Within an hour, he got into his chauffeur driven car and was at his friend’s front door.

A disheveled Ajay opened the door, stared at his friend for the longest time, and just stepped aside without saying a word. Rajesh entered his friend’s house after a long time.

“How are you my friend? Why are you sitting in the dark? You were not picking up my calls so I decided to come over.”

Getting no response, he continued, “Ajay, I am ready to share a part of my earnings with you. These are yours too. Come on, we did this together, didn’t we?”, said Rajesh.

“Share! What do you think, I am a beggar with a begging bowl, standing outside your door? Bastard, go to hell. I can bloody well take care of myself. Thank you and freak off. I don’t need your alms to survive.”, thundered a flustered Ajay, as he drank from the bottle.

Rajesh tried to stop him but his friend continued to let off steam, “Just wait. This year is going to be different. The small foal which I won that night is going to come of age. He will win, no doubt about it. He was no. 1 then, he will be no. 1 now. The winning streak of that bloody Winderwhatever is numbered, I will make sure.”

“This is doing you no good, my friend. And don’t you dare curse my horse, I am warning you.”, now Rajesh lost his cool.

“You dare to raise your voice? In my house? Just get out of here. I don’t want to see your face again”, as Ajay started pushing Rajesh towards the door. “I will make sure you are destroyed, I vow to destroy you. Get lost!”

——

The race started. As always, the bets were placed, mostly on Sir Windermere. As the horses lined up at the gates were flagged off, Sir Windermere led the others at the first bend. He started putting distance between himself and the others; still Dragon Tornado gave hot pursuit. 

Surprisingly Sir Windermere seemed to tire. At the third bend disaster struck; Sir Windermere stuttered, bent over and crashed, as Dragon Tornado grabbed the apex position.

As the race ended, a stunned and concerned crowd surged forward.

——

Newspaper clip the next day…

Yesterday , a tragedy struck at the racecourse. The Champion, Sir Windermere, had a fall and lost his life. His jockey, Faroukh Dawawala, suffered grievous injuries, though escaped with his life intact. He has been admitted to a hospital with cracked ribs.

It is alleged that Sir Windermere was poisoned early morning by some miscreants hired by the owner of his close competitor Dragon Tornado, Mr. Ajay, who is now in police custody.

The owner of Sir Windermere, Mr. Rajesh is inconsolable. “Today , I am overcome with grief, it’s a big loss for me. But I am absolutely shattered by this subterfuge by my friend, Ajay. We entered this industry together and I never imagined that…I am sorry, I can’t go on.”

——

Authors notes – the story is inspired by the exploits of a champion horse, Secretariat and tried to build a story around him. Any resemblance to a real racecourse, is courtesy, Google. The author himself, has never visited a racecourse. 

I have tried to reduce the cuss words, but in case any one is outraged, I beg your pardon.

***

Photo By: Pixabay

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This is an entry from team viibrant Quillers for ArttrA-3, A Game of  Writers co-sponsored by Diners Club International.

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Thanks for reading.

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