Suddenly he saw clearly. He had just a glimpse of Sabota standing by the side of Dorsey. He understood. In a flash it all came to him. The first half of the great sweepstakes race was behind them! Once more they were to circle the track. The glistening black rump of Thunderbolt rose and fell just ahead of the Gold Dust maverick’s nose—at her side, crowding her against the rail, was another horse. Which one? It didn’t matter! Back of it was another. He was “pocketed!” Hell, no wonder Thunderbolt was ahead of the outlaw mare!
Half-way around the quarter-turn he pulled the filly down.
She slackened ever so little. Thunderbolt—the horse at her side—all of them—shot ahead.
He was behind the bunch—clear of the field!
The crowd saw the filly dart to the right. It looked as though she would go over the outside rail before the Ramblin’ Kid swung her, in a great arch, to the left clear of, but far behind, the other horses.
He was crazy! The Gold Dust maverick was getting the better of the Ramblin’ Kid. He had lost control of the wonderful mare!
So thought the thousands watching the drama on the track before them.
Away over, next to the outside fence, on the far side of the track, open now before him for the long outfield stretch, the Rambling Kid straightened the Gold Dust maverick out. The other racers were still bunched against the inner rail—lengths ahead of the filly.
Leaning low on the neck of the maverick, the Ramblin’ Kid began talking, for the first time, to the horse he rode.
“Baby—Baby! Girl!” he whispered incoherently almost. “Go—go—damn ’em! ’Ophelia’”—he laughed thickly, reeling in the saddle. “Hell—no—’Little—Little—Pink Garter!—that’s—that’s—what y’ are! Little—Pink—Garter_—” he repeated irrationally. “That’s it—show ’em—damn ’em—show ’em what—what runnin’—what real runnin’ is!” fumbling caressingly at the mare’s neck with hands numb and stiff and chuckling pitifully, insanely, while his face was drawn with agony nearly unendurable.
Then the Gold Dust maverick ran!
Never had ground flowed with such swiftness under the belly of a horse on a Texas track.
“Good God!” Skinny yelled, “looky yonder! He’s passin’ them! Th’ Ramblin’ Kid is passin’ ’em!”
No one answered him.
His voice was drowned in the mighty roar that surged from five thousand throats and rolled in waves of echoing and re-echoing sound across the field.
“He’s ridin’ round ’em!”
“Th’ Ramblin’ Kid is goin’ around them!”
“Great heavens! Look at that horse go!”
“She’s a-flyin’! She’s a-flyin’!”
The Gold Dust maverick closed the gap—she caught Dash-Away—she evened up with Prince John—she left the big sorrel behind—she passed Say-So—nose to nose for a few rods she ran opposite the black wonder—the Thunderbolt horse from the Vermejo.