On the racetrack in front of the circle, Stubbs spotted his friendly antagonist, Spears, and pointed to him. "Turn your horse out to pasture," said Stubbs. "I told you. Give him a break. He needs a rest!"
Stubbs waited for Stacy to gallop Chas to the circle. "This is the best horse I ever had my hands on," Stubbs said. He made a thumbs-up gesture as Stacy approached. Then Stubbs led Chas' Whim into the circle to get their picture taken, and finally he walked the gelding down the racetrack toward the barns. The chestnut, his legs and belly speckled with mud, his eyes wide and nostrils flaring, strode off with his groom. Stubbs slapped the horse on his neck and whispered into his ear: "It's all right, you did good.... It's all over now, you win again, it's all right now."
Stubbs smiled and nodded at the grandstand fans who yelled to him. Grooms shouted, "Attaway, Stump!" A pony girl reached out a hand and gave Stubbs a high five. "Wire to wire!" she cried. "Way to go."
The groom angled his horse through a gap in the fence and toward the barn area, keeping up a constant patter in Chas's left ear, which stood up and twirled as he listened. "You don't belong here," Stubbs told him. "You're too good for these horses here! Hear me? You should be in California, or New York. You're a good horse. You gotta go where the money is."
The man and his horse strode triumphantly into the stable area. A handful of stable workers, most of them grooms, applauded as the two swept past, heading for the testing barn. Across the road from the barn, Kee was already giving Learn Jake a bath and wincing at the sound of Jones's voice. Jake had finished next to last.
"You didn't beat but one horse," Jones told him. "I love free sodas. They taste so good when they are free. That's three cases. Remember? I want Coke, orange and Mountain Dew."
"Awright!" said Kee. "But I don't understand it. He just didn't run today."
Spotting Stubbs, Kee saw the chance to escape Jones. He reached out his hand. "Congratulations!" Kee said. "You got a hell of a horse there, a hell of a horse."
For a moment Benjamin Stubbs was a hero in the place where he lives—a man of the hour in the fashion of the back-stretch, a celebrity in the world of muck sacks and hayracks, of sour mash and sweet feed, of cramped rooms with rollout cots and TV sets with rabbit ears. Stubbs was the groom of Chas' Whim, conqueror at Laurel.
Like fight trainers, racetrack swipes often speak of their horses' exploits in the first person, as if they had fought the battles themselves. "I never met Jet Stream before," Stubbs said. "But I dusted him today. I don't know why they ran that filly, Seattle Dawn, against me. I ran with her and broke her heart. A shame. But I like the glory of winning one of these races. To know you're the groom of a horse who won a $100,000 race! To know you done your job well. To give someone a piece of your mind: 'My horse is better than your horse.' That's what I said today. That's what I like. It's the racetrack tradition."