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The Darkest Mile

Author

Mark Patterson

Date

Mon, Jan 2, 2017

Where night shines as day, a dark steed shall crest the mountain.

Sent forth by a pale man, the beast makes mockery of the contest.

No rival can test him, and all despair in his presence.

A great crowd in the valley stands helpless as the fond spectacle is defiled.

Nostradamus - 1548

 

Prologue- January 2, 2017

The creature's footsteps fell silently on a well-manicured cushion of earth running the length of the shed row. Had it worn tap shoes on wood flooring, there would likewise have been no sound. Stopping before the closed doors of an oversized stall, foreboding gateways of burnished mahogany adorned with skilled carvings of unspeakable things, the opaque, ivory thing listened. From within arose an ominous rumbling, low and guttural at first, then high-pitched and amplified, soon perhaps half as loud as a revving jet engine. On a plaque above the doors the creature now opened were written four words: Praesumo testis atrox senipes. Averting it's eyes as the stall's true barrier swung past- a large silver cross affixed to the inside of one door-the thing entered and beheld the beast. In life, those soundless footfalls had feared horses, and vestiges of that long dormant emotion sometimes stirred when the steed cried out. But he was master, and the great beast would bend, as always, to his (quite inhuman) will.

"Come in and proceed. I will control him," said the pale creature to a human who had followed him, timidly, some 20 paces the trailer. "Hear how he has ceased his roar?" Clearly terrified, the human took one baby-step forward. "I will double the sum we agreed on. Did you bring the forged foal certificate? I assume everything is in order,?" continued the vampire a bit too reasonably.

Persuaded, but barely, by the fat stack of bills now produced by long fingers, the man gripped his tattoo kit tightly and shuffled reluctantly into the stall. "Work quickly, while he is agreeable, said the pale entity, the last word drawn out in a vaguely ominous manner. "And don't nick yourself lest you bleed.......before he bears the markings."

What the well-bribed racing official beheld qualmed his fear somewhat. More than 17 hands and muscled, the steed was intimidating, to be sure. But the man's ink had stained roguish thoroughbreds before, and despite those sonic screams, this was just a horse. Except for the eyes.... those were ...unfathomably... deep.. red and ..nonreflective. Still.... somehow, you could ....well... see things in those crimson pools... not... like.. a... mirror.. but 3-dimensional... and acted out on a swimming red stage. In mere seconds he watched entire battles, and then his birth, and his life-which would end within the hour. Soon mesmerized beyond conscious thought, he saw himself set to work.

Some forty minutes later, his job finished and tools packed away, the man turned to the pale creature. "Please, give the money to my wife," he intoned flatly, dropping the bills mindlessly to stall-bedding. Then reconciled, even eager for his fate, slowly he spun and sought those bottomless eyes. By themselves, the stall doors swung shut. The black monstrosity reared. Again, the jet engine. It was, after all, feeding time, and the beast would wait no longer.

 

THE DARKEST MILE

Daily Racing Form (9/5/ 2017)

Wallachian Prince Wallops Record

by Michael Hudak

Grantsville, PA- Taking thoroughbred performance to an inconceivable level, unbeaten and untested Wallachian Prince sprinted one mile in a surreal 1:28 to leave legitimate stakes- competition sputtering some half a furlong behind in Sunday's Commonwealth Handicap at Penn National... Beyer associate and DRF columnist Shane Patterson stated that the race been reclocked and that the winner would receive an unprecedented figure of 162. That's some 50 points-translating to about 25 lengths-superior to the highest ratings normally assigned G1 winners.....

 

Daily Racing Form (10/12/2017)

Super(natural?)- Horse Met With Skepticism

by Nick Whiteley

Grand Prairie,TX- At a time when 60% trainers have given rise to rampant suspicion, a game teetering on the edge of credibility has been dealt a standing eight count by a horse just too fast to believe. Traditionally, sports records are bettered in small increments, the bar raised inch by inch. But what happened (or did it?) two nights ago in Texas was the unfathomable equivalant of an 85- yard field goal, or 800- foot home run. Such things are, of course, impossible. So, ask yourself, would these hypothetical feats engender awe, or cynicism? Certainly both, and such has been the case in the aftershock of Wallachian Prince's seismic six- furlongs timed in 1:01 ( yes, you read it correctly) at Remington Park Tuesday night.....

 

Mountaineer website blog (10/15/2017)

Patterson's Perspective

Should Somebody Stake This Stakes Horse?

Let's get something straight: I snickered at The Excorcist and snoozed through The Blair Witch Project, so I'm not a guy who gets jittery about much besides steward's inquiries. (True, I did smash that old Ouija board, but only because it kept giving me losers.) Right now, however, a certain super-horse has me sleeping with the lights on and carrying a crucifix in my pocket- right next to that trusty Kelco Class Calculator. I doubt these primitive implements can much help me in identifying dead (literally?) winners. But hey, a horseplayer uses what he has. Right?

Ok, so records are made to be broken, and it's not like Wallachian Prince moves THAT fast. A Harley (I think) could beat him, and so could the kind of cars that that don't have cardboard fitted where the back windshield used to be. But those things require gasoline. Which makes you wonder: What fuels Wallachian Prince? The back of my neck says it ain't hay and water. And what is UP with racing him only at night? A publicity stunt? For what purpose, when he could earn 10 times as much in Grade 1's carded at daytime tracks? And why did they name him after a vampire? And what's behind his trainer's Foster Grants? I DON'T get the feeling that he's going Hollywood...

 

Daily Racing Form (11/3/2017)

Dark Legend entered in Mountaineer Mile

by Ramsey Jones

Newell, WV- Amidst determined attempts to penetrate the wall of secrecy surrounding the fastest horse in history, and jaw- dropping speculation as to his true nature, unbeaten Wallachian Prince is slated to surface Saturday in the $200,000 G3 Mountaineer Mile.....

Sierra Williams, Mountaineer's director of racing, announced yesterday that wagers would be accepted on the event, despite a near certainty of significant minus pools. "Yes, our patrons can place bets on the Mountaineer Mile," confirmed Williams, adding that any losses incurred by the track would be "more than offset by the status gained from hosting a legend."

When asked if she planned to wear garlic when presenting the trophy, Williams smiled and responded, "Should I?"

Speculation, of course, has taken wild turns concerning the 4-year-old colt who campaigns only after dark and derives his name from the Transylvanian warlord transformed into a pop culture icon by the 1931 film, Dracula. Wallachian Prince's owner/trainer, Armand Strigoi, could not be reached for comment.

 

Mountaineer (11/6/17)- 10:02 pm:

"And this ebony express train has done it again," shouted Peter Berry. "He's left the field with these long, piston-like strides."

For a horse so impervious to rating, Wallachian Prince was surprisingly easy to pull up, thought DeShawn Parker. In action, the animal was surging steel, oddly similar to an amusement park ride. (That's how he would describe the experience, on the rare occasions, that is, when he consented to speak of it at all.) Except THIS Tumble Bug had a higher speed-setting than he'd shown yet. DeShawn was sure of that, even after loping his mount past the tote board and seeing the time emblazoned there. 1:22 it read, three simple digits that would explode the ceiling on thoroughbred limits.

Maybe that fantasmal clocking was why the overflow crowd had fallen silent. That, and the way Wallachian Prince had decimated his foes. Utter dominance by a thoroughbred was not unprecedented. Secretariat had done similar to his Belmont field, but people had taken joy from that, an almost vicarious thrill from seeing their dreams of equine perfection at last personified. This was carnage, a monster of 18-hands strewing exceptional horses in his frightening wake. For serious fans, attuned to the sport's enduring status quo, it was akin to a crisis of faith . Thus, they stared at the winner as if transfixed by a dangerous storm. And the wind was indeed starting to whip up.

The ride had been equally silent, it now occured to Parker, and then he realized something had been missing. The rhythmic snorting of expelled air that kept cadence with a horse's stride. Glancing down, the rider saw a black barrel not expanding or contracting. Wallachian Prince wasn't breathing. At last then, DeShawn Parker, 25 -year veteran and consummate pro, felt chills engulf his spine.

In fact, he was shivering when an expressionless Strigoi gripped one rein and led them into the winner's circle. Somehow, the cold seemed to emanate from his mount.

Strigoi must have noticed. "An early winter mister jockey," said the bald man, addressing Parker for the first time this evening. In the paddock, the trainer's muteness had been unnerving, but now DeShawn understood his reluctance to speak. Something was wrong with his voice. Something Parker was straining to process when quickly with the rising wind, those few words were carried away.

An instant after the picture was snapped, Strigoi brushed by Sierra Williams, who was left holding the trophy (and smelling faintly of garlic). His parting words would haunt both she and DeShawn for decades. "You have barely tasted my dark gift," he called back over his shoulder, thin upper lip curled in some cheerless simulation of a smile. With that, Strigoi strode, long leather coat swirling, with his horse into history.

Neither Wallachian Prince nor Strigoi were again seen in public, and the animal's incredible performances were soon rationalized as the product of some wonder drug or freak accident of pedigree.

That was easy to buy during daylight, when double calls on $10,000 claimers seemed of pressing concern. Sometimes, though, late at night, long after the mountain-main went black, the nightmare came. A vivid, icy dream that was always the same. In it, stood a huge, black horse. Riderless and fully tacked, the beast glared at him with those deep crimson eyes the track photographer had tried and failed to touch up. At his head was a lanky, bald man clad in an ankle- length leather- coat. A sneering man who shrouded the windows to his soul with designer sunglasses and spoke in a strange metalic tone. "Are you ready now for my dark gift, mister jockey?" he always asked. And then removed the shades to show the same deep crimson.

 

Epilogue:

Transylvania, August 14, 1476- The real Prince of Wallachia unsheaths a bloodstained sword and spurs a black horse at the invaders who would subjugate his kingdom. Within seconds, they close on a small band of Turks at astonishing speed. According to legend, the fearsome Vlad Tepes, defender of his people and proud bearer of the dragon crest, would survive this night and countless more, meeting eternity some four centuries hence at the hands of a mere real estate salesman named Johnathan Harker. For his mount, the dark terrain stretched much farther into the future. Praesumo testis atrox senipes. ( Dare witness the terrible steed.)

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