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On Saturday, July 15th, Aqueduct Racecourse's great stands bulged and overflowed, spilling thousands of spectators onto the track's bright green infield. Front-office officials estimated the crowd at more than one hundred thousand, the largest ever to watch a horse race in New York City. Millions more people throughout the country saw the Brooklyn Handicap on television. Those whose business it was to know reported that the number of television viewers had broken all records for an afternoon program. News film distributors, however, claimed the most stupendous audience of all. They sent prints of the race to foreign theaters and television stations throughout the world. Never had history recorded so many eyes following a horse race . . . and one pair in a far-off country spoke endlessly of destruction.
Fury and wrath had transformed these normally clear eyes into blazing pits of fire. They never left Alec Ramsay and the Black during the race and they promised death.
By my oath I shall overtake him with my vengeance and destroy him!
The pair of eyes followed the boy and his giant horse to the post, showing no interest in the other two entries. They watched the stallion charge out of the starting gate with Alec Ramsay's chin almost touching the black mane.
Death to him because of what he took from me.
Heart-rending despair and agony replaced the furious storm in the eyes as Alec and the Black flashed past the stands.
A curse on him for his wings of power. But I shall overtake him and destroy him.
The Black swept into the sharp first turn and Alec shortened the reins. Shaking his head, the stallion swerved to the far outside, twisting in an attempt to free himself of the bit.
A wicked hope filled two watching eyes as Alec Ramsay and his horse almost went down. But the boy kept the black legs driving beneath him and the race went on.
Death to him for his arrogance.
Now the Black was in full flight with Alec Ramsay stretched flat against his broad back. On, on and on the stallion came, faster and faster, until it seemed that one could hear the whistling wind he created. Brighter and larger his black image grew as he swept around the final turn and bore down upon the two front runners. He caught them near the finish line and all three straining heads bobbed together. A great roar rocked Aqueduct's stands as the Black jumped with marvelous swiftness into the lead and the race ended.
The two eyes staring at the television screen in a foreign land disclosed more vengeance than ever when Alec Ramsay straightened in his saddle. The facial features, too, quivered with rage.
Death to him for making me what I am!
Death to him before the fall of another moon!
Sunday afternoon, following the big race, the stable area was quiet. A lone visitor walked slowly through the murky veil of heat that enveloped the day. He went along the hoof-marked dirt lanes until he came to a brightly painted green-and-red barn; there he stopped and went inside, ignoring the sign which read:
NO VISITORS EXCEPT
ON STABLE BUSINESS
The visitor sniffed the strong smells of hay and leather, of horses and liniment. He went on, his eyes quick to note the orderliness of the tack trunks and the hanging pails, brooms and rakes, all freshly painted like the barn. Some of the stabled horses stretched their heads over stall doors, expecting him to pat them, but he ignored them. He continued along the corridor until he was within speaking distance of an elderly man who was raking the turf.
"Good afternoon," the visitor said politely.
Caught unprepared, the stableman jumped at the voice behind him, and then said, "Didn't hear you. 'Afternoon, sir."
"I'm looking for Alec Ramsay."
"He's on the other side. This is the Parkslope Stables here."
"I know. The other side, you say?"
"Yes, sir. Just go around the corner. You'll find him there. Black and white stable colors."
"I know that, too. Thank you. Thank you very much."
The visitor turned the corner and his steps came faster as he saw the black tack trunk with the white trim and bold lettering, "HOPEFUL FARM." But the eagerness left his face when he saw the open door and the empty stall inside. He bit his full lower lip in disappointment. Suddenly he heard the sharp blast of a horse. Turning, the man went to a window and looked outside. Then he walked quickly toward the exit. He knew where to go now. It was in the direction of a towering shade tree, beneath which the black stallion was grazing at the end of a long shank.
At the other end of the shank Alec Ramsay was sitting lazily on the ground, saying, "I'd do it if he'd only let me." He was chewing a blade of grass.
Henry Dailey, sitting in a canvas chair tilted against the tree trunk, asked, "If he let you do what?" He didn't bother to remove the battered gray hat from his eyes.
"Braid his forelock."
"Humph," the stocky trainer grunted. "The likes of him's got no use for braids. That's for women an' tame horses an' he knows it."
"Excuse me," the visitor said.
Startled, the boy and trainer turned quickly.
"You're a quiet one now," Henry Dailey said, lifting his hat the better to see their visitor.
"I didn't mean to startle you," the visitor apologized.
"Not important," Henry answered, chuckling. "We startle easy, Alec and I do. It's him that's the calm one." He gestured with his chin in the direction of the stallion. The Black was chomping grass in short, tearing bites. "But I wouldn't get any closer to him if you don't want to get kicked," he warned.