Early Hours At The Track

The rising sun gradually began to warm my numb face as I sat bleary eyed in the aging grandstand. The sun was an ethereal golden light, shrouded in vague mist. It illuminated the morning dew, which daintily adorned the green carpet earth. The early morning sounds of various birds and stirring possums filled my ears as I awaited the familiar beat of horses hooves. I settled myself against the wooden seats in the old grandstand. Decades of service to punters had worn the panels so they bend and give in to the weight of my body. The old grandstand itself making the same creaks and groans as it has for hundreds of mornings just like this. Its worn paint is testament to its hundred-year existence, each scrape and crack worn like a scar from the past. Then it happened, I heard the noise I’d been waiting for.

My heart began to race and my senses sharpened as the fiery thoroughbreds thundered around the thousand-meter corner and entered the home straight. Neck and neck they galloped across the luscious green turf towards the finishing post. Driven by incessant curses from their committed jockeys, the finish loomed closer and closer. Furlong by furlong they neared the end of their track work and with one last propelling stride they lunged across the finishing line.

As the horses slowed and cantered away I was absorbed back into the tranquil surroundings of the premature morning. I ran my naked fingertips along the delicately detailed wrought iron banisters, which hugged the edge of the descending steps. Icy cold diamonds pierced my palms and speared a sharp chill up my spine and through my shoulders, leaving behind only glistening crystal drops to melt and trickle down my wrist.
As I meandered down the grassy hill, the chilling breeze prickled my neck like a thousand bindies, forcing me to shield myself in the warmth of my musty oilskin coat. The empty betting ring looked unnervingly ghostlike in the early morning shadows. Discarded betting tickets were littered beneath the bookmakers’ idle stands.
As I weaved between the place getters gates on my way through the mounting yard I could begin to hear the chaotic sounds of the nearby horse stalls. Attempting to avoid the morning pandemonium I detoured through the dusty float park, following the hoof shaped tracks imprinted in the dirt. The strong stench of horse manure repulsed my nostrils and made me feel nauseous. The odor surrounded the vacant horse trucks and floats, parked diagonally stretching along the roadside.

Finally I reached the heritage green gates weathered by many a day under the harsh sun and violent storms. The gates lay tiredly covered in delicate blossoming creeper, curtaining the quaint little driveway that leads to comforting surrounds of the family stables.
A beautiful bay gelding stood poised and alert in the in the open horse wash, its muscles taught under its fine skin, surveying its surroundings.

I made my way into the tack room. The rich smell of leather engulfed me instantly. The sun blurred through the dirty window, throwing speckled shadows across the uneven floor. Saddles and bridles lined the wooden walls, providing the room with its very own character. Across the breezeway the fluffy kittens pounced from one chaff bag, to the other, then toppled down upon a bed of hay. Playfully they skipped across the blanket of oats that covered the floor of the feed room, leaving tiny paw marks as evidence of their mischievous games.

Outside in the breezeway, the horses hung their heads contently over the doors of their boxes, giving the occasional "nicker" in curiosity of what’s happening outside on the track. Each of them willing to exchange an affectionate nuzzle for some much deserved attention. The velvety smoothness of their muzzle tickled my face, as I stood captivated by their liquid brown eyes, which shone with life.

The yellow poplar leaves crunched beneath my feet as I wandered down towards the outside yards by the creek. I let out a sigh of content as I realized that there really isn’t any other place I would rather be.



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