LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Sunbury Press has released The B Team, Alan Mindell’s novel about one-eyed horse and his amazing rise to fame.
About the Book:
A one-eyed racehorse in the Kentucky Derby? His biggest fan is a young boy, himself with only one useful eye. Seven people, all at key stages of their lives, combine to purchase the horse, One-Eyed Bandit, from a claiming race at Santa Anita. What follows is the heartwarming chronicle of the horse’s remarkable journey and the inspiration he provides his owners.
“Any lookers?” Cory asked Carlos Souza, his longtime assistant. Carlos, Rugged Landing, and Ramon Carquinez—the horse’s groom—had just joined Cory in the number-three stall of the circular Turf Paradise saddling paddock.
“No, Boss,” Carlos answered. “I do not see anyone.”
Cory nodded. Apparently he’d been right about the unlikeliness of Rugged Landing being claimed. If anyone were interested, Carlos probably would have spotted them while walking with Rugged Landing from the stable area to the receiving barn to here. Cory had also been right about a breeze—a slight one had sprung up, maybe tempering the stifling heat by five degrees.
Cory patted the lanky chestnut on the side of his neck. The valet for Cesar Alvarez, Rugged Landing’s regular jockey, arrived with saddle, girth and stirrups. Working together, Cory and the valet began affixing the equipment to the horse. Cory really liked this part of the sport—saddling, meeting the jockey, perhaps strategizing and pre-race anticipation. He glanced quickly at the odds board and saw that Rugged Landing was five to two, lukewarm favorite in the field of ten.
“Hey guys… Sucker’s gonna win again.”
Cory didn’t have to look to know who had joined them. Nor that the new arrival wore the usual old beat-up tan cowboy hat and bright yellow golf shirt and shorts. This was a part of the sport Cory didn’t like—dealing with Bill Donley, Rugged Landing’s owner. In his mid-fifties, Donley had an enormous potbelly and a head markedly too big for his body.
“Sucker doin’ good?” Donley inquired.
“Fine,” Cory grunted.
“Think we’ll lose him?”
“Not according to Carlos.”
“Well, we do, we do. Main thing… squeeze another win outta the sucker.”
Cory winced silently. This horse could win a thousand races and Donley would have no authentic feeling for him. Once he and the valet finished the saddling, Cory rubbed his hands together, patted Rugged Landing again on the neck and motioned Ramon to walk him around the paddock. The valet left and while Carlos remained in the stall, Cory and Donley headed for the grass in the center of the paddock, where the jockeys for the race were already assembling. They had no problem finding Alvarez in Donley’s bright yellow silks, almost the identical color of his shirt and shorts. Garish, no question, but at least easy to spot during a race.
“Go get ‘em, jock,” Donley greeted Alvarez. “Sucker’s ready.”
Cory winced again. He was, of course, proud of his affiliation with Rugged Landing—obviously much more than with the horse’s owner. Alvarez—about forty, muscular and short, even for a jockey—shook Donley’s hand, then Cory’s.
“You know how to ride him,” Cory said. He saw no reason for any further instruction to the jockey.
“Don’t be afraid to crack him a few times,” Donley chimed in, “with your stick.”
Cory winced once more. Rugged Landing didn’t need to be whipped. It was almost an insult. Pretty much like Cory giving the rider instructions. The horse knew exactly where he was and what he was doing at every stage of a race. Simply put, if there was any way he could beat you, he would.
A track official called for “riders up” and Ramon led Rugged Landing to a spot right in front of them. Cory boosted Alvarez aboard the horse. As the track bugler played the call to post, a spectator outside the paddock, probably inebriated, yelled something unintelligible at Alvarez. Cory watched Rugged Landing step onto the track.
“Sit with me,” Donley said. “Wanna talk to you.”
In truth, Cory would rather sit with Carlos and Ramon, who were moving toward a place along the outer rail of the track. Donley seemed insistent though, and at least his box seats were in the shade. On the way Cory paused to gaze at Rugged Landing, jogging past them. Beyond the horse, he couldn’t help noticing the turf course and infield, the grass on both wilted into an ugly yellowish-brown. How many times had he been here, at Turf Paradise, over the years? Two, three thousand? Maybe more.
A couple of spectators approached to ask him if he liked his horse today. He merely nodded and smiled obligatorily. It didn’t take long to reach Donley’s box, directly above the finish line. The crowd was sparse—the heat, a weekday, final race on the program. No question Rugged Landing deserved better than this.
“Want me to get you a drink?” Donley asked as they sat down in his seats. “Or a bet?”
“Neither,” Cory answered, aware that he was very much an oddity around a racetrack, in both categories. He’d never acquired a taste for alcohol and didn’t care for the sweetness of soft drinks. Plain water suited him fine. And, over the years, the few times he’d bet on his own horses was like the kiss of death. They’d always lost. Nor did he have his father’s acumen for betting on other people’s.
“Thinking about New Mexico,” Donley disclosed.
“For the summer?”
“Nah. Year round. Since they put in slots down there, purses are much better than here.”
“Would you send all your horses?” Cory asked.
“Least three or four to start. Interested?”
Relocation wasn’t a new topic for Cory. Actually, while driving the short distance to the track an hour ago, he reviewed his options once more.
About the Author
Alan Mindell has owned and bred racehorses for many years. His horses have raced at many tracks, including Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Del Mar, Golden Gate Fields, Emerald Downs, Turf Paradise, Arlington Park, Tampa Bay Downs and Canterbury Park. A former standout baseball player at the University of California, Berkeley, he won four gold medals as a sprinter in the 2012 San Diego Senior Olympics and is a world-class 400 meter runner in his age group.
The B Team: A Horse Racing Saga
Authored by Alan Mindell
List Price: $16.95
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
Sunbury Press, Inc.
BISAC: Fiction / Sports
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