W. DONALDSON SMITH
HE WAS BEGINNING to feel the years. At one time had never noticed the strain, took it all as part of the day’s work, but that time was long ago.
There were, he reflected with a touch of cynicism, a hundred Neil Huxleys riding today. No, that was not quite right. There were jockeys in plenty who’d ridden as many winners. But the hallmark of a jockey wasn’t necessarily the size of the figure in the winners’ column, though one might think so to read the newspapers. It wasn’t always the winner who ran the best race. And it wasn't always the winning jockey who rode the best race.
Four hundred winners! That had a nice sound. The good, solid ring of tangible results. And yet it had in it, too. the ring of defeat. “Neil Huxley?’’ they would say a few years hence, and there would up|X;nr that puzzled frown which comes to the brows when a name is remembered but vaguely and cannot be placed.
Yes. if it had a solid ring it was at the same time a knell of defeat. In all those four hundred victories there wasn’t one notable nice to the credit of Neil Huxley. He didn’t ligure on the roll of honor.
He laughed at himself sometimes for taking himself seriously enough to worry about that detail. Still, it rankled. When you gave a scon; of years to a profession, you wanted to leave some impression behind.
"Neil Huxley,” they’d recollect at last. “Oh, yes, he rode a whole lot of winners. None of them of much importance. He was a g;xxi enough jix'k.”
The Veteran, they calk'd him now on the s|x>rts pages. The Veteran. Well, the Veteran was all but through. With the running of Saturday’s big race, the Veteran was bidding adieu to the pounding hoofs and the living dust. He should have finished before this. He was drawing l;x> heavily on his reserves.
Vencedor would go out a hot favorite for the classic, probably start at one to two or something like that. The
very thought brought a flickering light into Neil Huxley’s old grey eyes. Never before had he ridden the favorite in one of the classics. He laughed. Irony again in the fact that his lirst real chance should come in the last race of his career. None knew letter than Neil Huxley that the jockey can’t come without the horse.
Of all the thousand—or was it two thousand? times he had gone out at the sound of the bugle, the gods gave him his one chance at the last jump! Vencedor, hot favorite for the Atlantic Stakes, Neil Huxley up. Were the gods relenting at the eleventh hour?
Well, win or lose, he was through when he dismounted from Vencedor. He prayed with all his heart that that last dismounting would be in the winner’s circle. But, win or lose, he was finished. He had told the newspaper boys simply that he had had the offer to manage a stud farm. And getting weary nowadays of the great game, he had accepted the offer.
The newspapers carried the headline: “The Veteran
Retires After Atlantic Stakes.” And on the same page -Vencedor, one to two! Vencedor, they said, could not be beaten on Saturday. Was it possible that after all these years . . .?
He shook his head as he looked back on those twenty years. He didn't believe that the jinx would let up now. Why should it? The overwhelming favorite for the Atlantic Stakes would fail on Saturday. It couldn’t be otherwise.
GENE RYLEY met the eyes of his trainer doubtfully across the table. Oliver shook his head.
"You saw the last race this afternoon?” It was half a question, half an assertion.
Ryley nodded, his lips pursed.
“I’m convinced,” said Oliver, "that the horse lost because the rider was more tired than the horse itself. The horse was pulling hard in the early stages, and it looked to me as
if the jockey was just too weak to lift a finger during that last furlong. What did you think of it yourself?”
Ryley frowned and evaded a direct reply.
“Neil told me he sat still because he was sure that if he moved the colt would fold up,” he said.
Oliver’s fingers drummed on the table. He looked at Ryley in perplexed silence for a while, then shook his head.
“He’s past his best, a good way past. I’m as keen as you are to put him up on Vencedor on Saturday. But—it’s up to you. If you feel inclined to take a chance with the race as good as in your ixicket. it’s okay with me. I’d like nothing better than to see Neil ride his big winner at last. It must be an awful feeling to know that you’ve spent a score of years as a jockey, and in all that time failed to land a decent race. I know how I’d be feeling if I’d been training good horses for that length of time with the same result. So put him up by all means, if you feel you can afford to take the chance.”
"I can't afford to take a chance,” Ryley told him with grim certainty.
Oliver laughed shortly.
“Sentiment's like pride -it’s expensive at times. If you can’t afford to risk things, then I’d advise you to put up Kid Spence or Harry Porter or someone else strong enough for Vencedor. The horse is as near a certainty as he can be. But he takes a devil of a lot of riding. Neil isn’t as strong as he used to be. though I guess he’ll not admit that for a year or two yet.”
Ryley nodded absently, looking out of the window.
"You’re the owner,” continued Oliver. “It’s for you to decide. And it should be soon. It would be just too bad to decide to put up a stronger jockey, and then find there wasn’t a stronger one disengaged! What’s to be done?”
"I guess you’d better explain things to Neil,” Ryley said slowly after a few moments.
Oliver laughed grimly and shook his head.
“Nothing doing! I'm not taking on the job of telling Neil Huxley he doesn’t get his big chance to ride a worthwhile winner. No, sir. I've got enough to do handling the
“He'll not bite your head off. Neil’s a decent sort.”
“That's just it.”
“He’ll take it pretty badly,” Ryley agreed.
“Yeh. He’s all excited at the idea of winning a race like the Stakes. It’s not going to be any picnic telling Neil that lie’s not strong enough to ride Vencedor.”
Ryley shifted uneasily in his chair.
“I wish to goodness I could afford to take the risk. But I can’t, and that’s all there is to it. If it had come at any other time. I’d have given Neil his chance and thought the money well spent, even if Vencedor did pull too hard for him. But I just can’t do it today.”
“I’ll try to get Kid Spence, then?” Oliver suggested. “S¡ience is riding in great form just now and he’s got confidence enough for a dozen. He’ll make Vencedor run up to his form all right. I’ll have to get in touch with him at once or he might be booked for something else.”
“And who interviews Neil? That’s another job that must be done immediately.”
“It must.” Oliver pursed his lips. “There’s always the chance that he’ll be able to hunt up another mount, though I doubt it. There was a lot of talk after that race yesterday when he got shortheaded. I’m afraid he’ll ride his racé in the Atlantic from the stand.”
“It’s a trainer’s job to tell a jockey about riding arrangements,” Ryley said.
“We’d better do it together since neither of us has the nerve to do it alone.” Oliver looked at the clock. “He usually drops in around this time. We’d better wait a moment or two and see if he turns up.”
NEIL HUXLEY walked toward the hotel, and his thoughts were far from the bustling street. Often he’d wondered how it would feel to retire. He was finding out now. It was a sensation of mingled relief and regret. Relief that the strenuous days—the days of hustling and the days of wasting—were over. Regret that his last few hours in a great sport were swiftly vanishing. He was glad he’d stuck it out so long. There was, then, a bigger measure of relief to temper the regret. He thought of the countless race riders who had vanished into oblivion at the height of their careers because of some unforeseen happening, some accident. He shuddered.
He turned the comer toward the Dominion Hotel. Yes, it was the best way—to go on as long as possible, then
quietly step aside. And if only you could step aside with the sure feeling of a job well done—that would be perfect.
A job well done. Wasn’t the riding of four hundred winners a job well done? He supposed it was. Mediocre. He laughed shortly as he went toward the hotel entrance and bystanders turned and looked after him curiously. That was the word. They would say in the papers that Neil Huxley had come to the end of a long and noteworthy career. They would say that to compliment the Veteran. But that word “noteworthy” would be the wrong one. They should say that the Veteran had come to the end of a long and mediocre career. That would hit it off just right.
He knocked gently at the door of Ryley’s room, and a voice bade him enter. Oliver was sitting at one side of the table and Ryley at the other. Neil Huxley thought they looked ven,' serious and rather uncertain.
They smiled and nodded in welcome. Neil grinned back. Ryley, in the act of taking a cigarette from his case, offered him one. Neil took it and lit it, reflecting that in a day or two it wouldn’t matter much how many cigarettes he smoked. There were lots of things that wouldn’t matter much. He could have a good dinner every day, and there would be no need to be in bed by ten o’clock. Yes. it would be strange. After twenty years . . .
He pulled up a chair to the end of the table. Before sitting down, he stood with his hands resting on the back of the chair, and said:
“Gentlemen, I’m going to pack up. I’m getting just a little weary of the great game.”
Ryley stopped with a match halfway to his cigarette. Oliver leaned forward quickly.
Neil sat down. He looked at them and nodded deliberately.
“Yes. I guess there comes a time when every man feels he’s travelled far enough on the road, when it's time to call a halt. I’ve reached that point. I feel myself going a bit short. Like a horse that’s had enough.”
Complete surprise was indicated on the faces of Ryley and Oliver. And something else which Neil could not quite define.
Oliver looked at the end of his cigarette.
“You’ve been in the saddle a few times since your apprentice days,” he agreed.
“It’s been a great game,” said Neil simply, looking away.
“We’ll be sorry to lose you, old man.” Ryley told him sincerely. “This partnership between you and the Ryley outfit must be something of a record in point of time. What are you going to do? Just grow tulips or something?”
“I’ve got a chance to take charge of a stud farm for Jim Bancroft,” Neil told them. "I’ve ridden quite a few winners for him, and he’s given me first refusal of the job. So it’s the green fields instead of the race track in future, gentlemen. It will be rather more ix?aceful, I guess.”
"You'll be packing up straight away?” It was Oliver who asked the question. There was a hint of tension in his voice.
Neil smoked for a couple of seconds. Then he spoke,
looking away as if he might be looking down the corridors
of the past.
“For twenty years I’ve done my best to win a big race. I'm finishing after I get my last chance. Five minutes after three on Saturday and it will be over. I'll have failed or succeeded in those five minutes.”
There was silence. Neil stared at the floor.
“Gosh, I'm just living for those five minutes!”
He turned abruptly to them, his eyes shining with excitement. “Vencedor is g;xxl enough to do it.”
There was a pause. It was as if each were waiting for the other one to speak. Oliver ncxided briefly.
“The horse is going in great style. He can't be beaten. With a strong rider, he’s already past the post.”
There were a thousand dreams in Neil’s eyes.
“What a break!” he breathed. “The last ride and what a chance! Gee. you don’t know what this means to me. To bring it off in the last race of all. What a finish !”
He stopped. What an ending it would be if he failed again! He was almost panic-stricken at the thought. He stood up.
Ryley and Oliver were strangely silent. Their thoughts were evidently on that field lined up for the start. Like his own, he thought. He turned to the door.
“Good luck to Vencedor,” he said.
“Good luck to Vencedor.” they echoed. He thought it strange that they looked away as they said it.
IT WAS ON FRIDAY that they told him. After exercise. I at eight a.m. Neil Huxley looked from one to the other, blankly, dazedly, as if he did not quite understand their hesitant words.
It was Oliver who took hold of himself and explained matters in a few quick words. They thought it advisable to get a stronger jockey since Vencedor required such a lot of riding. If it had been any other horse in the stable . . .
Then Ryley talked quickly. It was as if he and Oliver were afraid to let silence fall, with Neil staring at them like that. He talked rapidly, hesitantly, disjointedly. Still Neil stared at them, his old eyes moving from one to the other like the eyes of a ventriloquist’s doll.
"If Vencedor wasn’t such a handful it would be different." Ryley explained to him. Both he and Oliver had said the same thing twice already. They were repeating the same thing in different words over and over again. Still Neil stared at them.
“Vencedor needs extra strong handling and, as you say yourself, you’re feeling the strain these days. If it wasn’t the Atlantic Stakes, that wouldn’t matter a scrap. But Vencedor’sa hard puller. You'll understand, Neil.”
They did not know whether Neil undersUxx! or not. He said nothing at all. He just stcxxl and lwked at them with empty eyes. Then he turned and left them, walking very stiffly and staring straight ahead of him.
Continued on page 25
Continued from page 17
HE SAT AT THE TOPof the grandstand, and if his eyes were on the hustling scene below he saw nothing. He seemed to liave grown older in the last twenty-four hours. The lines on his brow now stood out very prominently. He knew what the glances of the people around him meant. They were thinking that Neil Huxley was showing signs of age. sure enough. The Veteran was about ready for the sidelines.
Yes. Two more days and it would be the sidelines, sure enough. He said “Two more days!” and he laughed; but it was not his eyes that laughed. His eyes were the eyes of a man who has seen hope fade when it had blossomed most greenly.
His career was over, now. He had no mounts today and, if he could avoid them, he would liave none tomorrow'. He did not want to respond to the bugle again. That race two days ago w'hich he had lost by a head would be his farewell to the game. He had ridden a good race and because he had lost by a head they looked at him uncertainly. He had ridden four hundred winners, and because he had failed to win a big race he was a mediocre jockey At the top of the grandstand. Neil Huxley laughed.
“Feeling good because Vencedor’s a cert?” asked a genial voice.
Neil looked up with a start. A tall, heavily-built man, smoking a cigar, was regarding him with twinkling eyes from the row of seats below.
"Hello, Jim,” Neil greeted him listlessly, “I didn’t see you come up.”
The big man laughed and sat down on the bench, throwing one arm across the back.
"I guess your mind’s too taken up with your farewell triumph on Vencedor tomorrow to notice old Jim Bancroft,” said the big man. "But don’t forget you won your first race on one of my gees. Don’t forget that, my son - even if you do blossom into an Atlantic winner at five past three tomorrow.”
"I don’t ride Vencedor tomorrow." Bancroft started.
"Vencedor’s not gone wrong?”
Neil laughed queerly. Evidently Bancroft didn’t consider it within the realm of possibility that they might have engaged another jockey.
"They’re putting another boy up. I—I’m not strong enough for the job.”
If a thunderbolt had fallen at that moment, Bancroft could not have been more surprised. He took the cigar out of his mouth and stared at Neil blankly.
“Well. I’ll be darned!" he muttered and watched the crowd below for a couple of minutes without speaking.
“So you don’t get your last great chance.” he said half to himself. He knew all about Neil’s one remaining ambition. “I guess that’s a bit of a knockout. Dam it. there’s other things in race riding besides brute strength."
Neil said nothing.
"What are you going to do? Ux>k out for another mount?"
Neil slxxik his head decisively.
"No. I’m through. Rode my last race two days ago. Lost it. too. Didn’t know it was my last at the time. Perhaps just as well.”
"You lost.” Bancroft seemed to be pondering something.
"Yes. Beaten by a head. That means I rode a bad race, of course.” Neil laughed grimly.
Bancroft was silent for a moment or two. Then he turned impulsively to Neil.
"You started your career in my colors. Why not finish up in them? It would be more appropriate than ending in that race two days ago. I’ve decided to run Mary of Argyle in the Stakes. She hasn’t a ghost of a chance, but I like to see my colors carried in the race.”
He put his hand on Neil’s knee.
"Finish up as you began in the emerald green. .And in a decent race. I’m not holding out the remotest hope of winning. I’m running Mary mainly because I’ve had a starter in this race every year since I started racing. Finish with the emerald green ballooning out on your back, Neil. By gosh if you do that they’ll think you’ve refused
the mount on Vencedor for the sake of ending up in the colors you started in.”
Neil smiled slightly at that ingenuous suggestion. He stared unseeingly at the course below. Yes, it was one of Jim Bancroft’s horses that had started him on the long road. With victory out of the question, it would be fitting if one of Jim’s brought him to the journey’s end.
He turned to Bancroft and his eyes were blurred.
“I’ll finish on one of yours. Jim. Thanks.” It had been the emerald green in the beginning. It would be the emerald green at the end.
IT WAS NEARLY over. They had interI viewed him a dozen times, they had photographed him another dozen. The papers carried the headline, "Neil Huxley comes to the end of a long career.” They told all about that "long career”—his four hundred winners, his “valuable contribution to the profession.” They said all those things and a hundred more. But of the fact that he was not considered good enough to ride the certainty in the Atlantic Stakes, they said not one word. You did not say things like that about a jockey who was at the end of “a long career.”
That career was nearly over. He had pulled on the colors for the last time. He had pulled on the small green cap. Now in the ring they handed him his whip. He swung into the saddle and the bugle sounded. “The Last Post,” he thought, with ironical humor.
"Good luck, Neil!” said Jim Bancroft, though he knew Mary of Argyle had no chance with Vencedor there.
“Good luck, Neil!” said the paddock judge. "Good luck. Neil!” they said on all sides. “Good luck. Neil good luck!”
The horses paraded in front of the stands, First, Vencedor in Ryley’s black and white. Overwhelming favorite, this great black son of Archaic. He’d beaten them all before in hollow' style. He’d beat them today more easily. A daughter of Highland Chief and Maid of the Mist brought up the end of the line. It was Mary of Argyle. Alice Blue Gown, the Sultan, Meteorite, Vancouver Boy and Emerald Lake were some of the other starters. They turned in front of the judges’ box. led by the rider in a scarlet coat. And as Neil came back at the end of the line the loudspeakers blared over crowded paddock and packed stands:
"Ladies and gentlemen ! Passing in front of the stands, on Mr. James Bancroft’s Mary of Argyle, is a rider who has donned the silks for the last time -Neil Huxley.” There came an ovation from the crowd. Neil Huxley had always given them a straight run. They made the stands ring in the sincerity of their farewell. Neil’s fingers twined in the mane of Mary of Argyle.
"We have looked up the records and we find that Neil has ridden over four hundred winners during his twenty years in the saddle."
The cheering grew. Neil’s face was set in lines of granite. The announcer addressed him directly.
“We are sorry to lost* you today, Neil Huxley. We wish you happiness and success in the days to come. Good luck. Neil !”
The crowd rose as one man in its enthusiasm. They shouted a thousand goodbys to him. He saluted them gravely and simply with his upraised whip.
His blurred eyes rested on Vencedor, turning now at the head of the line. Kid Spence sitting confidently on his back. To his weary eyes, the black and white seemed to dance in the sunlight.
Kid Spence glanced at the cheering crowd and then at Neil.
“I’m sorry, Neil.” he said as their horses all but brushed. “I know you ought to be here instead of on that mare.”
Neil took hold of himself.
“That’s all right. Kid,” he said abruptly,
forcing a rueful grin. "You’ve got to look after yourself if you want to get anywhere. Don’t spoil the race by winning too far.” Behind him the ovation was subsiding. Before him, brown and furrowed, stretched the last eight furlongs of his career.
“I guess it just had to be.” he said to himself. W’ith a final shrug of his shoulders, he turned Mary of Argyle to come up to the barrier.
VENCEDOR was as fit as hands could make him. His eyes were flashing, his coat fairly gleaming. Neil thought he had never seen him in such condition before. Kid Spence leaned forward, pacifying and humoring him. There was a confident smile on Kid’s face. There’s reason to smile, Neil reflected, when you were on board a sure winner of the Atlantic Stakes.
Mary of Argyle was quiet and sedate. Neil patted her neck consolingly. She was a good, consistent runner, but there were unquestionably faster horses in the field.
If he had been one of the stars., one of the dashing jockeys like Kid Spence who put new' fire into a horse when they got on its back ... He smiled ruefully. That was where he had failed. It was that gift that he lacked—the gift of dynamic energy that made the Fred Archers and the Earle Sandes and the Steve Donoghues. Like Mary of Argyle, Neil was sound and consistent. Those were not the qualities that scaled the heights. In the midst of competition, a spark of something more was needed.
They came into the stalls. No. 1 was on the rails—Vencedor. The tense, silent crowd in the stands was concentrating mainly on Vencedor. No. 2 was Calgary Stampede. A good one but, like Mary of Argyle, not quite good enough for this job. The second favorite. Marshal Ney, was No. 3. Half a dozen others. And on the outside, Neil Huxley and Mary of Argyle. Fifty to one ajpinst Neil Huxley and Mary of Argyle. “Fifty to one!” Neil murmured as he toyed with her mane.
They were in line. Neil shortened his hold on the reins, turned his head to watch the starter. “Steady, lass!” Then he laughed at his eagerness. What difference would it make if they were left at the post? Gosh, wouldn't that be a great climax to a “long and notable career.” Neil Huxley left at the post in his last race! They’d talk about him for once after a big race if that happened.
“Steady, lass,” he muttered. “We’ll not sink as low as that, even if we are a hopeless pair.”
He glanced at Vencedor and smiled slightly. Kid Spence looked like a coiled spring. The favorite was out to get a flier, eh? Fashionable jockeys had to be spectacular or people might think they weren’t really any better than the Neil Huxleys. Owners might begin to wonder whether they were really worth the big fees. So Kid Spence would try to get a flier, even though he was on a horse that could afford to lose a few lengths at the start and still win. The Kid Spences had to keep up appearances.
Marshal Ney backed out just when they were set to go. He came back immediately. A second’s pause, then the starter’s hand jerked. The tapes whirred up. A staccato gasp from the stands.
“THEY STRETCHED OUT past the I stands, racing headlong for the first bend, jockeys darting lightning glances to right and left, sizing up the situation, jockeying for position before taking the curve. Gradually they bunched on the rails.
Neil glanced around him swiftly. Mary of Argyle was running sixth, with only three horses behind her. Ahead of him he saw Calgary Stampede heeling around the bend in the lead. Calgary Stampede was out to make the weight tell.
Neil grunted as he saw Vencedor loping along on his right. Kid Spence would be
wondering why he didn't take the lightlyweighted Mary of Argyle up to the front and make the weight tell, along with Calgary Stampede.
But Neil wasn’t going up there in front. Did they think he was going to take the lead and have the mortification of seeing them slide past him in his last race? Did they think he could go out there in front and stand that drumming of hoofs coming nearer and nearer, that drumming that would be as the knell of doom for him and all his dreams.
No, if he was to finish in the ruck he’d stay in the ruck. He wasn’t going out there to strain his horse’s pounding heart in a frenzied effort to beat them back; an effort that would be as futile as trying to beat back the waves of the sea.
So Mary of Argyle raced on the rails around the first bend and there were only three horses behind. Vencedor still galloped smoothly on her right. Neil looked despondently at the great, leisurely, raking stride of the black. The short, quick chop of Mary of Argyle, efficient as it was in its way, could not cope with strides like those.
They raced down the back stretch. Dominion Day forced the pace now. Now he was in the lead, and Calgary Stampede dropped back, his bolt shot. Neil grunted. That would have been the fate of Mary of Argyle if he’d gone up to the front. He would finish somewhere alongside Calgary Stampede when the post wras reached. But he w'ould be saved the humiliation of having them come past him.
They approached the tum for home. Now Marshal Ney raced up on the outside and headed Dominion Day. The boy on Dominion Day w'ould not relinquish the lead. He picked up his whip and hit the pacemaker twice. Dominion Day took the lead again.
Out of the comer of his eye, Neil saw Kid Spence lean an inch or two farther forward. He knew what Spence was waiting for. It was a feather in the caps of the Kid Spences when they could find an opening and slip neatly through on the inside. That never failed to arouse the enthusiasm of the crow'd. That skilful manoeuvre, thought Neil cynically, was the hallmark of jockeyship.
So now Kid Spence watched, like a cat watching a mouse, for an opening. It was always rounding the last half of the bend that such openings came, when the horses in front might swing a trifle wide. The bend was the happy hunting ground of the jockeys with dash and dynamic energy.
And now as they came around the latter part of the curve, the opening came. Dominion Day bore out slightly from the rails. There was the opening. Neil leaned forward, weighing up the chances. Many a race had been won by seizing an opening such as this. And many a horse had been shut off when the opening closed too soon. It was a gamble. And sometimes it was a trap.
Neil Huxley cursed to himself. A dashing jockey would seize that opening and forget about traps and such like. Because he was old in the ways of horses and jockeys, he saw in his mind’s eye that opening closing with startling suddenness. He was old and he was experienced. He was suspicious. You lost many chances through being too suspicious.
Kid Spence saw the opening, too. His teeth showed as he crouched forward. He raised his whip and Vencedor shot for the opening. Neil groaned as the black left Mary of Argyle. The race was over.
Then, like a picture he had seen in his mind’s eye coming to reality, it happened. As he had experienced many, many times, the pacemaker swung back to the rails. Kid Spence, the bold, the dashing, was caught. Neil heard the boy’s startled shout. He saw Spence’s desperate effort to switch Vencedor, already flying for the opening, to the outside. He saw Vencedor’s forelegs cross at that frantic switch.
Vencedor went down, and a moan from the stands followed the crash of the fall. Neil’s breath went out with a hiss.
The background of two decades stood solid behind Neil. Instantly with that crash of Vencedor, death was abroad at the
bend. Solid as a rock stood the two decades. (
The boy on Marshal Ney lest his head and I wrenched his mount to the right. Too late. ; Marshal Ney plunged to earth. 1
Twenty years told their tale, and Neil ; Huxley’s brain became automatic in its i reactions. The hands that gripped the leather were steady as rocks. The eyes that ; stared at the tangle of fallen horses and jockeys were steady and unwavering, too. Old and steady and unwavering were the hands and eyes of Neil Huxley as Vencedor and Marshal Ney sprawled helplessly in the path of the Atlantic Stakes field.
He heard a sound that was almost a sob from the boy on Calgary Stampede. At the sound of that half-wail, he knew without turning his head that the boy’s nerve was gone. They had dash, tremendous vitality, dynamic energy had these youngsters. But it was something more than those things that would win the Atlantic Stakes this afternoon.
Neil Huxley, old Neil Huxley, the Veteran. Experience stood as a bulwark behind him at the crisis. The boy on Calgary Stampede made a frantic effort to guide his mount through the mêlée. Neil Huxley let his reins go slack. Twenty years in the saddle had taught him that the experience of twenty years could not match the instinct of the horse itself at a moment such as this.
Neil Huxley, most experienced of them all in riding, ceased to guide his mount. He left the race to the horse. The boy on
CaiganStampede crouched fonvard. his I face white, his teeth clenched. He tried like ; a demon to bring his horse through the J tangle. Calgary Stampede, with the sureness j of instinct, went to the left. The boy hauled j to the right. Calgary Stampede went down.
Kid Spence lay outstretched in the path of Mary of Argvle. Neil sat still as a mummy. Mary of Argvle leaned to the right, and her Hying hoofs hit the ground an inch from Spence's head. In front of lier was the bulk of Vencedor. To the left went Man' of Argvle. squirming around the horse. And Neil Huxley, while behind he heard the crash of another fall and the shout of another jockey, sat still as a mouse, the reins free, clinging on by the hold of his knees alone.
I N THE LATE afternoon the headlines of I the special editions were inches deep. “Neil Huxley Rides Miraculous Race to Score in Classic. Smash in Atlantic Stakes. Coolness of Veteran Wins Great Victory.”
They asked him how he had done it. He laughed and said he didn’t do it; it was the horse. And they laughed, too. at that. Experience, they said.
Dash and vitality and dynamic energy these counted, yes. And something else counted, something which only a veteran could have.
Jim Bancroft chuckled deeply that night.
“I told you there were other things in race riding besides brute force,” he said.