them to Claire one day. Now I’d lost them and $25,000.
I lowered the glasses and looked around. Harry was two rows back, a dozen metres along, anonymous-looking as usual. He had his glasses up.
The caller said, ‘Signs of life from the plunge horse here. Farmer’s taken her out wide at the turn. Don’t know about that. And it could be too late now. It’s eight hundred to go.’
Nancy had come off the rails, gone between two horses and moved Dakota wide, out towards the middle of the track. It was an act of desperation.
There were six horses between her and Steel Beach, strung out. The leader was fully extended, comfortable, ready to run all day. His jockey turned for a look. Nothing to alarm him.
Nancy was on Dakota’s neck. They went up to horses number seven and six in what seemed like a dozen strides.
Then it was five’s turn to be swept away. Next was Shining Officer. He appeared to lose heart, running out of pedigree, carrying five kilograms more weight than Dakota.
It was Celeste’s Bazaar’s turn. The horses ran stride for stride.
‘Two-fifty to go,’ shouted the caller. ‘Celeste’s Bazaar’s gone. It’s Steel Beach and Dakota Dreaming. Unbelievable. Come from near-last to challenge. They’re at the two hundred. What a race. The plunge horse. Bookie’s nightmare. Sayre looks back. Taken the whip to Steel Beach. Hundred to go. Can he hold?’
Nancy and Dakota. She seemed to be whispering in his laid-back right ear, all her weight on the horse’s neck. Gradually, the gap closed.
They were at Steel Beach’s rump.
Not enough track left for Dakota to win.
Nancy, only hands and heels, every fibre of her body urging Dakota to win.
The horse responded.
Dakota’s stride seemed to lengthen by half a metre. They surged, seemed to drag Steel Beach back.
Metres to go.
Dakota stretched his neck and put his head in front.
‘Dakota,’ shouted the caller, ‘Dakota! It’s Dakota Dreaming! Steel Beach second, Celeste’s Bazaar a miserable third. What a finish! What a disaster for the bookies!’
Nancy was standing in the stirrups, up above the horse. She raised her whip in triumph. That would cost her a fine. But she didn’t care. She’d come from ten goals down at three-quarter time. Life would never be the same again.
We were home.
I looked for Harry. He was unscrewing the top of the little flask of Glenmorangie. He took a swig. I caught his eye. He gave me a nod.
Down below, I could see Tony Ericson and Rex Tie dancing together. The boy, Tom, had his sister on his shoulders.
‘Dakota,’ said Linda from behind me. ‘That’s the word you said in your sleep.’
I turned. She was in her leather jacket, windblown, full of life. ‘Don’t tell Harry Strang I talk in my sleep,’ I said. ‘Get here in time?’
‘Only just. But I didn’t know what I was looking for.’
‘As long as you found me,’ I said. ‘That’s the important thing.’
She leaned across and kissed me on the mouth.
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