Hattie swabs down Papago with a bucket of warm water and pine oil, soaps his tail and mane and hoses the suds away. She rubs him dry, combs out his mane and tail and, back in his stall again, kneels in the straw to rub his legs with alcohol. Next she wraps his legs in padded bandages and paints his hooves with an oily dressing to keep them from drying and cracking. "You don't need to do this every day, but I do because it makes him look so pretty," she says. She hangs a water bucket and a hay rack on hooks outside the stall door and Papago begins to nibble and watch the world go by. Hattie moves to her other horses, chatting, laughing but always working.
"Warbucks here was laid up three or four months," she says, "but when he came back in Arkansas he won his first race by six lengths and paid $48.60. I only bet our horses, a $6 combination every time one of them runs. I've saved me enough for a down payment on a house in Florida."
At 10:30 Earl Louis, the 33-year-old assistant trainer and stable foreman, wheels around a cartload of oats mixed with sweet feed, stopping at each stall while the grooms scoop out two quarts for each horse, hang the feed buckets and close the screens. One last sweep, a spritz or two from the hose to keep the dust down and then lunch across the road at the Frenchman's Kitchen where a sign warns, "Eat Your Betting Money but Never Bet Your Eating Money."
Afternoon is the slow time. There is still a 4:30 feeding to come and a little more mucking out to do before the horses are bedded down. There is water to be changed and tack to be cleaned and bandages to be washed and hung up to dry and more raking and sweeping, but before all that there is also time to sit in the sun at the end of the shed row and gossip and have "a cool one." There is even time to take a nap on one of the cots in the tack room.
It is 1:27 when Hattie leans back against a wadded-up pillow and pushes her shoes off with her toes. She opens the Racing Form, but before long she rolls over facing the wall. A voice from a loudspeaker breaks the midday silence of the backstretch.
"The horses are approaching the starting gate. It is three minutes to post time."
Hattie Lukes is sleeping.