She feels strange, standing here, in a dress instead of her silks, heels instead of boots, and, instead of a helmet, a hat more complex than a gig harness. She feels like a fool, all truth be told. The running of the Belmont Stakes and here she is, on the sidelines. Her muscles are amazingly relaxed and loose. Perhaps it’s being here, on the track, the scent of the dirt rising into her nostrils, mingled with the scent of the horses that will run it. They aren’t even in the gate yet but she can smell them, she can hear their nickering, the stomp and thud of hooves, and feel the ripple of muscles as they are loaded into the gate. She can practically feel Winchester moving and shifting beneath her, his muscles coiled, ready to run.
She had fought, bit, and clawed her way into that gate. She had been good, too. One of the best. Winchester’s Country Gentleman had never run better than when she was his jockey. She misses it, all of it. She misses walking him around the paddock, over the track. She misses counting out her eight pairs of goggles and layering them just so atop her helmet. She even misses the taste of dust in her throat.
Then, in the back of her memory, there comes the thunder of the track, the world tilting to the left, and the scream that haunts her dreams even now. But while she’s here…she can forget, at least for a little while, ironic though it might seem.
She smiles, hearing the bugle peel out over the Stakes, signaling the race is about to get underway. Turning from the fence, she begins to make her way up to the stands, though she moves slowly. Prosthetic legs and heels, a far cry from her jockey boots.