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Thoroughbred #69Melanie's Double Jinx
By Campbell, Joanna
The vapor lights over Tall Oaks' practice track were still glowing as Melanie Graham settled her weight onto Hi Jinx's saddle, letting the Thoroughbred colt know his early morning workout was at an end. Jinx fought her for a moment before he geared down to a steady trot, and Melanie blew out a gusty breath, eyeing the steam wafting from the two-year-old chestnut's neck and shoulders. Now that they had slowed, she became aware of the cold November air, and she was grateful for the heavy sweatshirt and warm gloves she was wearing.
"That was a perfect work," she told the colt. "Why can't you always be this good?" She patted his neck as she brought him down to a walk. Melanie was thrilled with Jinx's behavior during his workout, but she tempered her excitement, knowing that tomorrow was another day. Jinx had the potential to be a world-class racehorse if only she could get his erratic behavior under control. But for eighteen-year-old Melanie, Jinx's attitude was a big part of what she loved about him, too. Difficult horses always seemed to appeal to her, although Jinx was turning out to be more of a challenge than she had imagined.
Melanie loosened her helmet as they neared the opening in the track's rail, where Kevin McLean was waiting for them, a cooling sheet draped over one arm. A small brown-and-white dog sat beside Kevin, hisbright eyes fixed on Jinx. Riley, the dog Melanie had rescued the previous summer, had become Jinx's close companion and seemed to help calm the high-strung colt.
Melanie was glad Kevin, whom she had dated in high school, was willing to help her. After breaking up over a year before, they were now good friends. The son of an experienced Thoroughbred trainer, Kevin had a lot of knowledge to share, and Melanie enjoyed working with him.
The hood of Kevin's sweatshirt was pulled over his red hair, and a stopwatch dangled from a lanyard around his neck. He held up a clipboard as Melanie stopped Jinx hopped from his back, and bent down to give Riley quick pat on the head. Jinx dropped his head to sniff the dog, who licked the colt's nose happily.
"He's being more consistent every day," Kevin announced, nodding approvingly as he eyed the colt "Giving him time away from the track and bringing him to Tall Oaks seems to be paying off, Mel."
In October Melanie had moved Jinx from White brook, the Lexington, Kentucky, Thoroughbred farm where she lived with her aunt and uncle, Ashleigh Griffen and Mike Reese. Tall Oaks, managed by Kevin's sister Cindy McLean, had fewer horses on the grounds, and Melanie had hoped she could get Jinx to focus on hi training by changing his surroundings. Now, as the end of November neared, her plan seemed to be succeeding.
She pulled her helmet off and dragged her fingers through her short blond hair as the sun began to spread thin autumn daylight over the farm. The security lights went out, and without their steady hum filling the air other sounds of the Thoroughbred farm came into focus.
Melanie could hear Elizabeth and Beckie, Tall Oaks two full-time grooms, calling to each other from inside the stallion barn ... Continues...
Excerpted from Thoroughbred #69 by Campbell, Joanna Excerpted by permission.
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