Nick sat atop Midnight, looking out on the horizon as the sun rose, slowly starting to warm the cool air, burning off the lingering mist. Midnight danced beneath him, tugging gently at the reins, eager to to reach the track. Bowing his neck he snorted, picking up his hoof and began pawing at the air. Today would be his last workout before the Rebel Stakes, where he would once again meet his rival Red Warrior, who had come all the way from Florida just to face off, once again, with Midnight.
Nick was waiting for Red Warrior to complete his workout before he rode out onto the track. He knew that both colts were highly competitive to begin with, which is why both were such outstanding racehorses, but around each other both horses became nearly unmanageable in a workout, trying to race during the work, which could damage both of their chances of winning the actual race.
Nick watched as Red Warrior lengthen his massive stride as he and his rider approached the five eighths poll, where his work would officially begin. Like a red bullet he streaked passed his starting point and without any urging at all he began to roll like a runaway express train. Nick didn't need a stopwatch to tell him how fast the colt was going, he could already tell that Red Warrior was absolutely flying, even without fully extending himself. When he hit the top of the stretch, entering the final leg of exercise, the jockey moved only slightly in the saddle, and Red Warrior re-broke. Switching leads he powered towards the finish line, his legs moving so fast it hardly seemed that his hooves were touching the ground. The colt soared under the wire, still tugging at his rider even through the gallop out, he was on his toes and ready to give his best effort come Saturday.
Nick looked over to Red Warriors trainer as he intercepted the horse and rider. As they exited the track, he faintly heard the trainer say "Beautiful work, absolutely beautiful. He was caught in 59 flat." Nick only thought as much, he knew Red Warrior was a fast colt, but he also knew the fast workout was only about 70% of what the colt could really do. Walking past Nick and Midnight, the trainer smiled smugly, lifting his chin at them before he continued past.
"Come on boy, show em' what you've got." Nick whispered to his colt as he urged him to step out onto the track.
Midnight practically leaped onto the track, excited to finally begin his work. He jogged along steadily, close to the outside rail. Brad had said to jog a mile and gallop to the five eighths before letting him out. When they completed their first lap Nick leaned lower to the colt's dark muscular neck. Midnight needed no further urging to go into the quicker pace, his powerful strides easily gobbling up huge chunks of ground.
Nick felt the colt tense as they approached the five eighths poll, his ears flicked back and forth in anticipation of the moment he would finally be released from Nick's hold. Every stride they took approaching their breaking point Midnight's pull became stronger, more insistent. Then like a flash the pole rushed by and Nick finally lowered his hands allowing the colt to do what he did best, run with the wind.
Midnight leaped into the bridle, extending his ground eating stride. The fence posts blurred together as Midnight raced along. Nick leaned in closer to Midnight's neck as the wind whistled around them, all he could hear was the thunderous hoof beats below him. Turning into the stretch the colt reach a whole new gear, not lengthening his already massive stride, but quickening it, until his hoof beats drummed so closely together, even Nick could hardly distinguish each individual beat.
Sweeping under the finish line Nick reluctantly stood up in the stirrups, and just as reluctantly Midnight began to slow his pace, until they finally were back down to an easy jog. Turning back towards the gap he looked to his father who beamed back at him and flashed the stopwatch above his head.
Riding off the track Nick looked down at his father, "Well?" he asked. He already knew the time would be impressive, but curiosity drove him to know what the exact time was.
Brad smiled back up at his son and said, "He ran five eighths in 58 and two fifths."
Now as they rode back to the barn it was Nicks turn to smile, for he knew, that unlike their last meeting, the Rebel would not be anywhere near close. He just knew it would just be Midnight and himself, crossing the wire all alone.