Thursday, 10 February 2011

death of a racehorse

I can't remember where I first read Death of a Racehorse. I second read it a few weeks ago when someone forwarded it to me among the rest of the equiphemera that is joining the pisciphemera in my inbox these days. Then it was on Slate's Hang Up and Listen podcast. Read the whole thing - it's not a thousand words long - if you have time. It's about a promising colt called Air Lift who breaks his leg during his first race. It ends like this, and it is fetishised as one of the great pieces of deadline writing. Sometimes the fetishists fetishise the right things.
They moved the curious back, the rain falling faster now, and they moved the colt over close to a pile of loose bricks. Gilman had the halter and Catlett had the gun, shaped like a bell with a handle at the top. This bell he placed, the crowd silent, on the colt's forehead, just between the eyes. The colt stood still and then Catlett, with the hammer in his other hand, struck the handle of the bell. There was a short, sharp sound and the colt toppled onto his left side, his eyes staring, his legs straight out, the free legs quivering.

"Aw, ----" someone said.

That was all they said. They worked quickly, the two vets removing the broken bones as evidence for the insurance company, the crowd silently watching. Then the heavens opened, the rain pouring down, the lightning flashing, and they rushed for cover of the stables, leaving alone on his side near a pile of bricks, the rain running off his hide, dead an hour and a quarter after his first start, Air Lift, son of Bold Venture, full brother of Assault.

1 comment:

Naomi said...

The fact that you are posting this while, I imagine, researching the last installment of Warhorses fills me with grim dread.

Could I be wrong in my conviction that Marengo and Copenhagen lived out their lives after Waterloo in a quiet paddock somewhere?

[Should I mention that I was delighted to discover the existence of Chicken Marengo the other day? - now I feel I'm already friends with this dish.]