An hour and a half later the girls came back on the track for the decisive second heat, head numbers bobbing between their ears like bonnets and their hooves clad in white bell boots. They paraded in single file, tossing manes and glances here and there, looking like so many hopefuls in a beauty contest in East Alton, Ill. Armbro Flight, her forelock in a pigtail, kept her best act for later.
She sped away from the starting gale and cut out the first half mile in 1:01[1/5] Far behind, another filly, Frosty Song, broke stride and began to gallop. Suddenly she fell over Comanche Newport, who was passing her on the inside. Both fillies went down.
O'Brien turned into the backstretch the second time around and, seeing the wrecked sulkies and a tangle of horses and men, he slowed down. Armbro Flight swung wide to avoid the trouble, but as she did a buxom lady—this one human—astride a white saddle horse came cantering up the track heading toward the accident and directly at O'Brien. Armbro Flight bolted—first to the inside, then to the outside. She thrashed with her hind legs at the sulky, struck a tire with her hoof and blew it out. Remarkably, she stayed on gait and, although the accident momentarily cost her the lead, she regained it on the final turn and won in 2:03[2/5].
O'Brien was as shaken as his filly. He walked around her as she cooled out in Goshen's willow-shaded paddock, his dark-blue eyes searching for an injury. There was none. He wrapped the filly in orange woolen blankets and rubbed her pig-tailed brow. More and more she was looking like a fair challenger to the Hambletonian favorite, Noble Victory.
"I think I could have beaten that colt last year at Indianapolis," Joe said. "I was four lengths in front and Stanley Dancer had him way back in the pack. I hadn't used my filly at all, and I was just sitting there waiting until he came at me. I knew just what to do. Then I saw a double-fold of newspaper blowing down the track at us. I couldn't avoid it. The filly reached out and pawed at it, and of course she broke stride. By the time she got back on gait, Dancer was long gone and the best I could do was second."
But that was last year. This September there should be no newspapers at Du Quoin. Heaven will protect the working girl.