Catch a Memory, Catch a Moon
2008 3rd-4th Grade Prose Winner
My heart was racing. I was the seventh female jockey ever to start in the Kentucky Derby. I had to change in the bathroom stall because there was no dressing room for women. After changing into my racing silks, I weighed in. I was underweight. Two metal slots would need to be added to my saddle so all the jockeys weighed the same.
I walked over to see my horse, "Mooncatcher." He was a dark bay colt. Mooncatcher and I were number thirteen, dressed in silver and sapphire blue. The identifier checked the tattoo under Moon≠catcher's lip. After we got cleared, Bill Camone, my trainer, gave me a pep talk. Then it was off to the track where the gate crew loaded us into the starting gate.
Everyone was anxious for the race to start. Just a few more seconds...the horses were kicking and whinnying.
"Briiiiing", the bell sounded and the gates opened. Everybody was positioning for first. Dirt was flying, hooves were thundering. The horses were frantic to get out of the mass. "Zip," number eight, took the lead. Kentucky-bred, eight had stamina and an experienced jockey. Zip usually set the early pace. He needed this title to start his quest for the Triple Crown, and then he could be champion. The pressure was on us all to not let this happen.
Number nine, "Azura Azura" followed eight, and then number five, "EZPASS," then six, "Test Pilot."
I was in dead last. I urged my horse to go faster. We were approaching the first quarter pole. My game plan was to pass two on the inside, come off the rail and take one on the outside. Mooncatcher moved up to fifth. We were about to pass "Keep the Change" when our horses collided. Everything was a blur of teeth, legs and mane.
"Whoa boy, whoa, calm down."
With a toss of his head, he lurched forward, but we had lost some ground. We would not face defeat.
The final turn was approaching. Mooncatcher loved corners. Three horses had reared up; one horse "spit the bit," causing his jockey to slip. A gap was made. We took advantage of the chaos, ac≠celerating forward. Zip was in sight.
We were going as fast as we could when "CLING," my stirrup came loose. I leaned hard to the right. I was about to fall. With tremendous effort, I took one hand off the reins to retrieve my stir≠rup. I caught it! But in the struggle, we fell back a half-length.
I squeezed my ankles, driving him on because second is the first loser. Several quick smacks of the crop reminded Mooncatcher of our goal. We were halfway down the backstretch.
With an enormous burst of speed, he raced on. We were neck-and-neck with number eight. I kicked and whipped Mooncatcher to go faster. Twenty seconds were left of the Derby. With the gal≠loping of hooves, we pulled ahead. It was only fifteen more yards, now ten, five. Golden Snitch and the rest of the competition seemed to have faded behind.
We pulled across the finish line. WE HAD WON. Reporters enveloped us with bright flashes from their cameras. We were led to the winner's circle and draped with red roses that Mooncatcher tried to eat. A week before the race, I hung roses in Mooncatcher's stall and mixed clover in with his special feed for good luck.
I could see my grandmother coming down from the stands, wearing a navy sun hat with a silver ribbon around the brim. She was crying. Nana came up to me and said, "I am so proud of you." My grandmother was the one who got me into horse racing. Mooncatcher's great-sire, "Eclipse," had been an excellent sprinter. From the pictures Nana had showed me, he looked just like Mooncatcher, with four white socks, a shiny brown coat and a star perfectly centered on his forehead.
The earth had quaked with the pounding of hooves. For the last ten yards of the race, the sun had shone beams of light on my horse and me. With a tremendous amount of fortune, we had won the Kentucky Derby. I cried out, "I did it! He did it! We did it!"
The headlines read "FEMALE JOCKEY TAKES DERBY."
Although the race was only about one minute, it felt like an eternity. The eighteen-karat gold trophy never stopped shining faith.
I bought my grandmother a new sun hat.