signs were unusual. The face he normally wore was a compound of concentration
and disapproval in roughly equal proportions. Both qualities contributed
considerably to his success as a racehorse trainer and to his unpopularity as a
person, a fact Morrison himself was well aware of. He didn't in the least care
that almost no one liked him. He valued success and respect much more highly
than love and held in incredulous contempt all those who did not.
Across the yard
Chick was watching the horse van drive away, his usual scowl in place. Morrison
frowned irritably. The boy was a pest, he thought. Always grousing, always
impertinent, always trying to scrounge up more money. Morrison didn't believe
in boys having life made too easy: a little hardship was good for the soul.
Where Morrison and Chick radically differed was the point at which each thought
Chick spotted the
frown and watched Morrison fearfully, his guilt pressing on him like a rock. He
couldn't know, he thought frantically. He couldn't even suspect there was
anything wrong with the horse or he wouldn't have let him go off to the races.
The horse had looked all right, too. Absolutely his normal self. Perhaps there
had been nothing wrong with the carrot.... Perhaps it had been the wrong
carrot, even....Chick glanced around uneasily and knew very well he was fooling
himself. The horse might look all right but he wasn't.
saddled up his horse at the races, and Chick watched him from 10 nervous paces
away, trying to hide in the eager crowd that pushed forward for a close view of
the favorite. There was a larger admiring crowd outside the chestnut's saddling
stall than for any of the other seven runners, and the bookmakers had shortened
concentrated expression an itch of worry was growing insistent. He pulled the
girth tight and adjusted the buckles automatically, acknowledging to himself
that his former satisfaction had changed to anxiety. The horse was not himself.
There were no lively stamping feet, no playful nips from the teeth, no response
to the crowd; this was a horse that usually played to the public like a film
star. He couldn't be feeling well, and if he wasn't feeling well he wouldn't
win. Morrison tightened his mouth. If the horse were not well enough to win, he
would prefer him not to run at all. To be beaten at odds-on would be a
disgrace. A defeat on too large a scale. A loss of face. Particularly as
Morrison's own eldest son Toddy was to be the jockey. The newspapers would tear
them both to pieces.
Morrison came to a
decision and sent for the vet.
The rules of jump
racing in England stated quite clearly that if a horse had been declared a
runner in a race, only the say-so of a veterinarian was sufficient grounds for
withdrawing him during the last three-quarters of an hour before post time. The
Cheltenham racecourse veterinarian came and looked at the chestnut and, after
consulting with Morrison, led it off to a more private stall and took its
temperature's normal," the veterinarian assured Morrison.
"I don't like
the look of him."
"I can't find