Girls Horse Club Blog

Two great horses. One determined girl. Together, they are ready for whatever life’s thundering hooves can throw at them…are they?

Published by • Jan 20th, 2011 • Category: Critique Me!, Fiction

TWO GREAT HORSES… is a submission for Critique Me!, an event where Girls Horse Club writers are inviting readers to critique their stories and poems with praise and/or constructive advice intended to help build confidence and improve writing/storytelling skills. Thanks in advance for your thoughtful insight!

by huskyhorsegirl, age 15

Two great horses.
One determined girl.
Together, they are ready for
whatever life’s thundering hooves can
throw at them…or are they?

Chapter 1

We’ve Already Had One Desert Adventure—
And Look How That One Turned Out. What’s This
One Going to Be Like?

The wind whipped miniscule, stinging grains of desert sand into Stacy’s face as the petite, dark-haired girl jumped out of the camouflaged Jeep. Her mom, a taller version of her daughter, climbed out after her and smiled. “Well, here we are at last, Stacy!” she said.

Stacy grinned and headed to the back of the horse trailer. “I know, right? This is going to be the best trip we’ve ever taken!” She blinked grains of sand out of her eyes and attempted to unlatch the back of the trailer, but Ben Rashid beat her to it.

“You don’t need to bother with that, Stacy,” he said over his shoulder as he swiftly pulled back the latch and opened the door. “Since you’re so obviously impatient to release your colt from his confinement!”

Stacy laughed and stepped inside the trailer as her black Egyptian Arabian colt, Aasifat’s Black Falcon, tossed his head as he shifted back and forth in his cross ties, his shod hooves echoing in the trailer. She reached out to pat his nose, but he swung it away. “Oh, Falcon, hold still!” she scolded as she untied Falcon and clicked her tongue to make him back down the ramp. “There, you can move now—is that better?”

Ignoring her, Falcon elevated his muzzle to sniff the air and neighed loudly. The lone white star on his chest stood out like a snowball against tar against the glistening black of his coat.

“You’re incredibly lucky to have a horse like this, Stacy,” Ben said, stroking Falcon’s gracefully arched neck. “He is a steed any desert chieftain would prize as highly as his own family.”

“He sure is,” Stacy agreed wholeheartedly, gazing at her colt with all the fondness of a proud parent.

“It’s a good thing we’re keeping him and Wildfire here instead of in those sale barns,” Ben said. “So we don’t have to worry about our precious charges being stolen like what happened to you before.”

Stacy automatically tensed up slightly, remembering how Juan Rafael, who had originally owned Falcon’s sire Wildfire, had attempted without success to steal Falcon last fall.

The details of the harrowing experience were still as fresh in her mind as though they had just happened yesterday. Stacy had been taking Falcon for a ride in the town near her grandmother’s ranch when a rabbit, accidentally flushed out of the grass, had scared the colt into bolting off with his rider. What she hadn’t known until later that night was that she and the colt had been filmed by a TV crew who had spotted the wild ride! The clip had been aired on a well-known reality TV show known as Small Town U.S.A. that was seen by viewers all over the world—including Juan Rafael, who, at once, had recognized the colt as the offspring of his former stallion Wildfire. Immediately, he had headed to Arizona to track down the colt and steal him as his own to take back to Egypt with him, but, thanks to Stacy’s quick thinking, had failed and was now in prison for the second time for his transgressions.

The night he’d discovered Falcon, Stacy had been outside visiting the colt, and having hidden in the barn when she saw the shadowy intruder, had caught Juan in the act of stealing Falcon. Even now, she still automatically tensed up as she recollected how Juan had snatched her from behind, dragged her struggling out of the barn, and tossed her as if she were a sack of potatoes in the stolen horse trailer with a drugged Falcon!

The terrifying details of how Juan had tied her up with ropes and driven off, with her helplessly thrashing to get free, were still fresh in her mind as ever, as well as when she and her colt had broken out of the trailer and stampeded off at top speed with Stacy hanging on for dear life. If they hadn’t been so close to the town of Flagstaff, where police had arrived on the scene and their captor had been arrested, there was no way of knowing what would have happened to them instead. As it was, a spectator’s video clip of Stacy’s dramatic ride, along with footage of Juan’s arrest, was soon posted all over the Internet.

It hadn’t taken long for Ben to spot the clip and, seeing Falcon’s tremendous speed, had emailed Stacy immediately. In the email, he had proposed the idea that Stacy’s mom, who wrote travel books, could bring Stacy with her on a summer vacation trip to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. That would have been amazing in itself, but the best part about the email was that Ben had suggested, by a wild stretch of the imagination, that Falcon and his sire Wildfire could have a match race together in Dubai! The reason he would be there in the first place was because he would also be going to Dubai to look at potential horses to buy at the world famous International Arabian Horse Sales. While Stacy and her mom were there, they would also attend the sales, which attracted thousands of horse lovers and Arabian horse connoisseurs from all over the world.

There was a problem, though—Stacy’s mom was in no financial position to safely ship Falcon all the way across the ocean to a distant country. She had said, “You know we can’t do that.” Ben had known that as well, but he had an ulterior motive up his sleeve. For a week after he had first emailed Stacy, he had contacted Sheik Al-Maktouk, a friend of his—and who also happened to be a multi-millionaire—who had also seen the clip of Falcon and had heard about Wildfire’s previous history as a famous racehorse. Ben told Stacy that the sheik had told him that as a two-year-old, the stallion had been nominated to race in the Dubai World Cup as soon as he turned four years old. However, because of the series of unfortunate events that clouded his past life, he had never gotten that opportunity.

So the sheik had gone to the Dubai Cup race officials and told them that Wildfire had been recovered and registered with Ben’s Egyptian Arabian horse stud farm in Egypt. That meant that the stallion was still allowed to race in the Dubai World Cup if his owner would agree to it. When Sheik Al-Maktouk had told the race officials that Wildfire had sired a son, they had then decreed that that automatically made both Falcon and his sire eligible to race as well. But the best part by far was that Sheik Al-Maktouk also happened to be a past sponsor of three champion Dubai Cup winners and had said that that he would agree to pay their way over to Arabia for a preliminary match race, if the horses lived up to expectations. He said that he would provide the funding required to prepare Wildfire, and Falcon when he was old enough, for the Dubai World Cup. Two unknown desert contenders against some of the most famous, and the fastest, racehorses in the world? What exciting battles those would turn out to be!

Unfortunately, as Ben wasn’t selling Falcon and Wildfire, and since the stables were only used for horses that were being sold or displayed at the sales, they couldn’t keep them inside those particular stables. But Sheik Al-Maktouk had said that that was not a problem and that they could keep the two horses at his private estate, where they would be safe from any possible thievery. Ben, Stacy, and Stacy’s mom would stay at his home as well. Stacy’s mom had immediately said yes to the vacation, although she still was skeptical about the match race part. Nevertheless, Stacy had still worked on honing Falcon’s speed and endurance for the race against Wildfire, who would be ridden by Ben, a thoroughly experienced rider! Every day she took Falcon on a long ride at the ranch, testing his capability against many surrounding terrains, which would be vital if the colt were to race on different track surfaces.

Now, Stacy snapped out of her daydreams as she heard her mom ask, “So, where is your friend the sheik’s barn located?”

“It’s right up here,” Ben answered as he led them up the drive, surrounded by sculpted, emerald-green pastures containing what seemed like thousands of magnificent horses. Stacy gazed upon the scene in awe as she led Falcon beside her, thinking that this opulent place was nothing like her grandparent’s ranch in Arizona. “Grandma and Grandpa would probably fall over in amazement if they saw this place!” she thought.

“This place is incredible,” Stacy’s mom said, glancing around her. “I can hardly believe the grass is so green, even though we’re in the middle of the desert!”

“Yes, well, there’s more to Dubai than what meets the eye!” Ben laughed. “But you’re right—this is one of the finest estates around. I’ve only been here once before, and it still looks almost exactly the same now as it did then. I wonder if he’s gotten any new stock since the last time I saw him?”

“Well, he certainly seems as though he’d have enough money to,” Stacy’s mom commented. “From the looks of the stables alone!”

An enormous white barn caught their eyes as they walked down a dirt path leading away from the driveway. In another enclosure surrounding the barn Stacy noticed five yearlings chasing each other. Falcon raised his head inquisitively and snorted as he watched the young horses play.

“Those colts must be around Falcon’s age, maybe a little younger,” said Ben. “They’re nice-looking animals, aren’t they?”

“They’re gorgeous,” Stacy agreed. Then she looked at her colt and smiled. “But not as gorgeous as Falcon!”

“So where is Wildfire located?” Stacy’s mom asked. “I don’t see him anywhere.”

“He’s over in the stallion barn,” Ben answered. “Al-Maktouk has got three stallions here as far as I remember, but he told me a while ago that he was thinking about getting another one or two.” He led them over to another equally enormous white barn on their right.

Stacy caught the familiar scents of hay, grain, horses, and leather as they walked into the huge barn, with large, spacious box stalls on either side of the aisle. However, they were all empty at the moment. Several grooms waved at them as they walked by.

“How come all the stalls are empty?” Stacy asked. “Doesn’t Al-Maktouk keep his horses inside?”

“The stalls are all connected to outdoor enclosures, so the stallions can get exercise if they want to. Aasifat is also in one, but when we brought him in he stayed inside the stall and wouldn’t go out,” said Ben. “They bring all the horses inside at night, since desert nights can get pretty chilly, but let them back out during the day.”

“And where is Al-Maktouk?” Stacy’s mom asked.

“Last I heard, he had to go to a conference yesterday and he’ll be back tomorrow morning,” Ben said. “So he’s letting us sleep in his house. Isn’t that great?”

“But where are we putting Falcon?” Stacy wondered.

“We’re putting him at the end of the barn, two stalls away from Aasifat and far away from the other stallions, so they won’t fight.”
Hearing his name, Falcon lifted his head high and walked a little faster as his large nostrils sniffed the new scents that surrounded him.

Without warning, the ringing blast of a stallion trumpeting echoed loudly through the barn, making them all jump.

Falcon immediately snorted loudly and jerked his head up, almost pulling the lead rope through Stacy’s hand. She grabbed it with both hands and took up the slack on the rope as the colt danced sideways. Stacy’s mom wisely jumped out of the way as Ben came over to grab the lead.

“Uh-oh,” he said as he glanced down the aisle towards where the stallion’s call had come from. “I’m wondering if this was a good idea to start with…”

“But he’s usually calm around other horses,” Stacy jumped in. “I don’t know what his problem is now. What if he gets into a fight and Sheik Al-Maktouk kicks us out of here for hurting one of his horses?”

“Actually, I believe that was Aasifat making that sound, and not one of Al-Maktouk’s studs,” Ben said , “but still, it wouldn’t be good if they got into a fight.”

“Oh, wow!” Stacy quickened her strides excitedly. “Was that really Wildfire? I hope he remembers me!”

“I think he will,” Ben answered. “After all, you were the only kind human he’d ever known his whole life when you found him that fateful day in Egypt.”

“Needless to say, those were three of the most worrisome days of my entire life!” Stacy’s mom sighed. “I do hope that colt doesn’t try and run any of us over, for everyone’s sake!”

“He won’t,” Stacy promised as she glanced at her excited colt. “I’ll keep him under control, Mom.”

Just then, a movement at the end of the barn caught Stacy’s eye. Her heart began to pound with excitement as she saw the small, arrogant head of a blood bay stallion peer over the stall door! Seeing her, Wildfire tossed his long black mane and whinnied a greeting. “Yes! He does remember me!” Stacy thought in joy. “Wildfire!” she shouted, temporarily forgetting she still led Falcon. The colt pricked up his ears attentively and stared in Wildfire’s direction.

The magnificent red stallion with zero white markings stretched his head over the stall door to inspect his offspring for the first time as they stopped a few feet away from the stall door. Falcon extended his long neck and the two horses’ noses just barely brushed. Suddenly, Wildfire flattened his ears back and, pawing the ground with a hoof, squealed a high-pitched warning to the newcomer. Falcon snapped his head up in response with a loud snort that startled Stacy with its velocity as the colt’s lead was almost yanked straight out of her hands.

“Uh-oh,” Stacy’s mom said apprehensively. “It looks like they might be gearing up for a fight!”

“Relax, Falcon,” Stacy said to the black colt, fighting down a feeling of unease as she took a firmer grip on the lead shank. “We’re not here to fight with other horses—after all, this here is your own sire!”

Ben grabbed hold of Falcon’s lead rope with Stacy as the two horses warily inspected each other. Stacy mentally compared the two horses’ sizes and individual strengths—Falcon was the smaller and lighter-boned of the two horses, as well as not being a stallion, while Wildfire was larger, taller, and had the muscled chest of a mature stallion, as well as having several scars on his body from past skirmishes. Oh, boy, she thought. This is gonna be interesting…

The two combatants stared at each other with their ears pinned back as the tension built even further. Suddenly, Wildfire snapped at Falcon’s nose, making the colt jump back in surprise, then he turned tail and sauntered away to the opposite end of the stall.

Falcon cautiously extended his nose over the stall door, but before he could do anything else, Wildfire whipped around and snorted so loudly it made Stacy jump, then with his chiseled head high, glared down at his son like he was a lower life form. Falcon immediately pulled his head back over the stall door and stomped a hoof. Confounded at getting this kind of complex response from another horse, the colt’s ears flopped sideways and he just stared in amazement.

Stacy giggled, in spite of herself. “He doesn’t know what to make of Wildfire, does he?”

Ben chuckled. “I don’t think Aasifat cares for his offspring too much. What do you think?”

“Kind of reminds me of when some upperclassmen in high school look down on the freshmen like they’re just the dumbest things they’ve ever seen,” Stacy’s mom said for the first time. They all laughed.

Just then, Falcon lowered his head and made chewing motions with his lips. “He’s submitting to Aasifat,” Ben said. “That’s good—I think we’re out of danger of them fighting. Stacy, do you want to see if you can get close to Aasifat? I’ll put Falcon in his own stall.”

“Okay,” Stacy agreed. She handed the lead to Ben, who led Falcon over two stalls away and ushered him in. It had a deep straw bed with a full hay net. She watched as the colt began to curiously inspect his new surroundings, and, relieved that he seemed to be fine, reached out and unlatched the heavy bolt on Wildfire’s stall door.

“Stacy, be careful,” her mom warned. “He might still be mad after what happened before…”

Stacy rolled her eyes and stepped into the stall, ignoring her mother. Her mom just didn’t understand about her and Wildfire’s relationship, she thought exasperatedly. After all, she was pretty sure her mom had never struggled for her life in the Egyptian desert for three days and ridden a wild stallion bareback at breakneck speed to find help. Or, been kidnapped by an insane horse thief who had been in jail and outran his stolen truck while riding her horse with only a halter and lead, for that matter!

“Wildfire,” she called, holding out her hand. “Do you remember me?”

She watched the red stallion gaze down at her with his proud head raised high as if she were a lowly servant being granted to her by a king. Well, if a king were in the body of a majestic red stallion, that is. She half expected him to speak, but instead, Wildfire stretched out his perfectly shaped head to smell her.

Ever so carefully, Stacy stroked his soft nose and then ran her hand down his muscled, arched neck. For a moment, she felt as if she and Wildfire were completely alone in the world, until Ben spoke from outside the stall. “That horse trusts you,” he said. “If I went in there and tried to touch him, he’d probably stomp me into the ground. The only way Al-Maktouk’s crew could get him here was to tranquilize him.”

Stacy stepped back to look at Wildfire closely. The five-year-old stallion’s blazing red coat shone with health over strong muscles, although bits of straw were stuck his mane and tail. “He looks amazing,” she said. “Better then he did the last time I saw him. More, like—domesticated, or something. He doesn’t have that wild look in his eyes anymore.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” her mom said. “He looked pretty wild a minute ago.”

“Aw, Mom, you should have seen him when he was fighting that wildcat in the desert,” Stacy answered. “Now that’s wild.”

“Stacy, I was wondering, would you like to ride him in the match race with Falcon and I?” Ben randomly asked. “With the proper tack, of course.”

Stacy gasped in amazement. “Oh my gosh, I sure would! But it’s been a long time since he last wore tack–what if he doesn’t accept them?”

“Well, he must have when he was a colt, in order to race,” Ben said. “But I’m sure he’s had bad experiences with them before, in which case he’d probably work better with you. We’ll work on getting him to accept the tack tomorrow morning before Al-Maktouk arrives home, then we’ll go to the Arab horse sales, and then in the evening when there’s not too many people outside, we’ll have the match race together at the Shangri-La Hotel.”

“We’re racing at a hotel?” Stacy asked in surprise. “Why?”

“Well, there’s a beach at the hotel, and it’ll get the horses used to different surfaces. Al-Maktouk will be there with a stopwatch to time the horses to see if they meet his expectations.” Ben answered matter-of-factly. “He’s already discussed it with the owner of the hotel and the owner’s going to let us do it. If they meet his expectations, he’ll help develop them into world-class entries for the Dubai World Cup.”

Stacy was still unable to believe that her two most favorite horses in the world might actually be running in a race like the Dubai Cup. She knew Wildfire had blazing speed and had proved himself in several other prestigious endurance and sprint races before, but Falcon was a different story. Although he possessed great speed like his sire, the only races he had ever been in were gallops with the horses at her family’s Arizona ranch and the race against Juan Rafael’s truck. And Stacy also knew that although she had taken extensive riding lessons from her grandfather at home, there was no way she would be able to ride Falcon or Wildfire in the Dubai Cup because she was too young and didn’t have enough experience. For that, they would have to find professional jockeys—hopefully ones that would treat the horses properly.

“Since Aasifat knows Stacy the best,” Ben was saying, jolting Stacy from her reverie, “she can ride him during the match race, and I can ride Falcon, if he’ll tolerate me.”

“I’m still not too sure about this,” Stacy’s mom spoke up. “I know Stacy is an experienced rider and has learned a lot in the previous year she’s been at my parents’ ranch, but she still is a little young for this…”

“Mom, I’m fifteen,” Stacy said, rolling her eyes. “Ben will be with me, watching so I won’t get hurt, and besides, the race is only going to be, like, a mile long. And if I don’t ride Wildfire, then who is—a phantom jockey?”

“Your mother is right to be cautious, Stacy, but Ms. Mulligan, she’ll be fine,” Ben said. “I’ll be right beside her the whole time.”

Her mother sighed heavily. “All right. Stacy, you can race, but you must be extremely careful.”

Stacy sighed and stepped proudly back to look at the two great horses.

There stood Black Falcon—untrained and unmatched against any other racehorse, but still boasting great speed and fire for only a two-year-old colt.

Then there was Wildfire—the picture of a desert charger, older and more experienced, while withholding a wild streak deep inside.

Which horse would win?

Chapter 2

Some Horses Do Change. But Only Some.

The next morning, Stacy and Ben were up early, attempting to saddle Wildfire for the first time since Juan Rafael had last had the stallion. They’d slept comfortably in two king-sized beds—Ben had slept by himself, and Stacy and her mom had slept together.

Al-Maktouk’s mansion was just as amazing as the stable grounds, with expensive furniture, beautiful portraits of Arabian horses hanging on the walls, and servants. Stacy found herself wondering exactly how much money the sheik must have to be able to afford it all!

Now, as she picked up the endurance saddle and bridle, Stacy slowly walked over to where Ben had the stallion tied up on a lead rope.

She held out the tack for Wildfire to smell; he sniffed warily, but soon lost interest and turned away. “He’s doing a whole lot better than when I first trained Falcon to wear tack,” Stacy said in surprise. She cautiously placed the saddle on the stallion’s back and buckled it, all the while waiting for him to start bucking and kicking. But except for lifting his head and turning it around inquisitively, Wildfire made no move.

“Maybe he remembers wearing this stuff when Juan Rafael had him,” Ben said, glancing at the unusually tranquil stallion. “Try the bridle next.”

Stacy moved to Wildfire’s head and carefully slipped the headpiece over his ears. As the bit went into his mouth, Wildfire suddenly lifted his head and abruptly side-stepped against his tether. Snorting and jerking his head, he mouthed the bit, his teeth clanking against the metal. But after a few minutes, he calmed down and stood still.

“I’d hardly know him as the same horse that was a basket case whenever Juan Rafael came within twenty feet of him!” Ben said in amazement, closely watching Wildfire. “I saw him at the walking ring at a sprint race once. He was all sweated up, rearing, bucking, kicking, and in general, acting like a wild stallion. The jockey had all he could do to handle him. I was amazed he managed to win the race, the way his jockey was abusing him.”

“What did he do?” Stacy asked, frowning.

“He whipped him practically the whole way,” Ben answered, shaking his head in disgust. “Only by force did he manage to get Aasifat across the finish line ahead of the other horses.”

Stacy shook her head. She didn’t want to think of those ugly memories. “Can I try and ride him now?”

Ben unsnapped Wildfire’s lead rope and stepped away. Stacy slid her boot into the stirrup and carefully swung up into the saddle. The red stallion’s body stiffened underneath her and he pranced nervously back and forth, chomping on the bit with a clinking noise.

“It’s okay, boy,” Stacy told the stallion, hoping that he wouldn’t bolt and lose control. “How about we take a little walk?” She gently tapped his sides with her heels and clicked with her tongue, bracing herself at the same time. Fortunately, Wildfire didn’t bolt—instead, he moved into a crabstepping walk. He tossed his head and pulled at the reins, telling Stacy he wanted to go faster. But she wouldn’t let him.

“Sorry, but you can’t go galloping around like a wild stallion yet,” Stacy said to Wildfire. “You can do that later, when we have our little race. You’ll like that, won’t you?”

“How about a trot?” Ben called to Stacy. “Or is it a jog—isn’t that what the folks out in the wild West call it?”
Before Stacy could command Wildfire any further, the red stallion broke into a fast jog, bouncing her around in the saddle. “Hey! Slow down!” she called, tightening the reins. But Wildfire wouldn’t slow down; instead, he went even faster, moving into a jerky lope and tugging on the reins.

Stacy leaned to the left and pulled on the left rein, bending the stallion’s head around, which made him turn in a rough circle to the left. “Finally, we’re getting somewhere!” Stacy muttered. “Okay, Wildfire, whoa!” She tugged on the reins and sat back in the saddle.

Tossing his head back and forth like a dog shaking a bone, the red stallion slowed, but wouldn’t stop. “Try again! He needs to learn to listen to your commands, not his own!” Ben shouted to her from across the paddock, which didn’t help Stacy’s nerves. In spite of her’s attempts to make Wildfire listen, it took a while to finally get the high-spirited stallion quieter.

Suddenly it occurred to Stacy that she could turn Wildfire’s wanting to go faster into a positive reinforcement for good behavior. She clicked and urged Wildfire into a lope. For a moment, he paused, as if asking, Are you sure?

“Yes, I’m sure!” Stacy answered. “Go!” In response, the stallion surged into the faster gait, moving with longer and longer strides. After a few circles, Stacy turned him into a tighter and tighter circle. Finally, Wildfire obeyed her commands. Then Stacy told him again to stop, and this time, he did so!

“Good boy!” Stacy said, patting the stallion on the neck. Wildfire lifted his head proudly and pranced, responding to her praise.

“Okay, I think that’s enough for now,” Ben spoke up. “We can do some more later. He’s a mite stubborn, isn’t he?”

“Falcon was the same way when I first trained him to saddle,” Stacy answered. “But I found out that if you let him have his own way at first, then gradually tell him what to do, he’ll eventually listen to your commands.”

“Speaking of Falcon, how about I try him now?” Ben suggested. “Since I’m going to be riding him later today, he probably needs to get used to me.”

“Sure,” Stacy agreed, sliding off of Wildfire. “I already tacked him up earlier.”

A few minutes later, Ben was sitting astride Falcon for the first time. Confused at having someone else besides Stacy on his back, Falcon skittered sideways and tossed his head, snorting. But Ben held the reins tight and wouldn’t let him rear up.

Meanwhile, Wildfire stood still and watched Falcon’s antics with his delicate ears perked, looking rather ashamed of his son’s audacity. Stacy laughed. “Isn’t he crazy, Wildfire?” She had no qualms about Ben riding her colt, since she knew he was an excellent rider and wouldn’t abuse Falcon in any way. In fact, she was having fun watching her colt’s antics!

“Wow, he’s spirited!” Ben shouted as the exuberant colt bucked and plunged like a rodeo horse. However, seeing he couldn’t get rid of Ben, Falcon finally let out a disgruntled snort and settled down. When Ben commanded him to walk, he did so with little protest.

“My, my!” a new voice called from somewhere nearby. “The Arab has turned into an American cowboy!”

Startled, Stacy spun around and saw a man dressed in flowing white robes standing a few feet away. Ben turned and called out, “Why, Sheik Al-Maktouk, I didn’t expect you here so early! Good to see you, my friend!” He dismounted from Falcon and shook hands with the sheik.

“Stacy,” Ben said, waving her over, “this is my good friend, Sheik Al-Maktouk. Al-Maktouk, this is my young friend Stacy Mulligan. She’s from Tucson, Arizona.”

The sheik gave Stacy a friendly nod. “Hi,” Stacy said. “Thanks so much for paying my horse’s way over here. It means so much to me to know that both of them may sometime race in the Dubai World Cup!”

“It was nothing,” Al-Maktouk graciously answered. “I am always glad to help out a friend in need.” He stepped up to Falcon and stroked the black colt’s neck. Usually, the spirited colt could be wary of strangers, but this time he stood still and let the sheik pat him.

“This fine animal here is Black Falcon, Stacy’s colt,” Ben said.

“He is godlike,” Al-Maktouk said in an awed voice. “He does justice to the race of Arabian horses, although you say that he is a crossbreed. And you say he was sired by Aasifat, the stallion who was once owned by Juan Rafael?”

“He sure is,” Ben answered, gesturing towards Wildfire. “His dam was Al Sha’ar, one of my best Egyptian Arabian mares. We don’t know why he turned out to be a black with only that one marking, because his sire is a blood bay and his dam is a dapple gray. This is the only foal Aasifat has had so far, but we’re working on breeding him to other mares.”

Wildfire snorted and sidestepped nervously as Al-Maktouk walked around him. “He’s skittish around strangers,” the sheik commented. “But I wouldn’t be surprised, with the way his previous owners treated him.”

“I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have such a horse as this one if it weren’t for Stacy,” Ben said. “She was the one who found him and bonded with him during the desert adventure I told you about. Right, Stacy?”

Stacy smiled proudly, even though she was self-conscious from Ben’s praise. “Yep,” she answered, stroking the red stallion as she talked. “Wildfire—that’s what I call him, even though Ben always calls him by his Egyptian name, Aasifat—saved me from a wildcat in Egypt when I first found him. And I rode him bareback out into the desert to find help.”

The sheik raised his eyebrows skeptically. “Is that true?”

“Definitely!” Ben answered wholeheartedly. “It may sound like something out of an adventure movie, but she did it.”

Al-Maktouk smiled, the corners of his sun-browned skin crinkling. “You are very brave,” he said to Stacy. “And Wildfire–I suppose I’d better call him that, since that’s what Stacy prefers to call him–is one of the most magnificent steeds I’ve seen in a long time. I’m amazed he bonded with you the way Ben tells me, after the way that Spanish brat Juan Rafael treated him.”

Stacy smiled and shifted her feet while she stroked Wildfire. “Thank you.”

“Now, why don’t we go up to the house?” Al-Maktouk said briskly. “I’m anxious to meet your mother, Stacy, and then go to the Arab horse sales afterward. Let’s put the horses away, give them a break for a while before the big match race later!”

Chapter 3

He Won’t Run Away With Me—Will He?

“Boy, these sure are some nice horses you bought, Ben!” Stacy said later, gazing at the four yearlings Ben had just purchased at the sales.

Al-Maktouk said nothing, but just watched the four horses—a proud, prancing roan filly named Amira, Damathat, a slightly timid liver chestnut mare with a white blaze, Halim, a calm sorrel colt with two white socks, and Al-Ahmar, a dark gray colt—intently.

Al-Ahmar switched his tail and tossed his mane. The other two yearlings seemed indifferent to all of the surrounding activity. But while Halim, Amira, and Damathat were all finely-boned with perfectly shaped heads, long legs, high-set tails, and gracefully arched necks, Al-Ahmar was more powerfully muscled and stockier. Also, his head wasn’t as finely shaped as the other three horses’.

Ben critically scrutinized his latest purchases. “Well, I’m not so sure about Al-Ahmar. He’s not quite as nice-looking as the other three, but I thought at the time I got him that I needed some new bloodlines to be infused into my stables.”

“I think he’s a great horse!” Stacy said, patting the bay horse on the nose. “He may not be as pretty as the others, but he still might have some good foals.”

Ben chuckled. “Yes, you’re right, Stacy. I shouldn’t be complaining. Who knows, he just might make a great sire in time!”

Al-Maktouk smiled. “I personally agree with Stacy’s opinion. These are fine horses, all of them, and they’ll make great additions to your stables.”

In a few minutes, they were all headed back to Al-Maktouk’s estate. While Stacy’s mom was researching for her book at some of Dubai’s famous travel sites, (she had said that she preferred not to watch, in case something awful happened to her daughter) Stacy and Ben would ride the match race, with Sheik Al-Maktouk clocking them.

After they took care of Ben’s latest charges, Stacy led Wildfire and Falcon outside and loaded them into the trailer that they would take to the Shangri-La Hotel. The sun was starting to go down, casting long purple shadows over everything.

“So guys,” Al-Maktouk said as they got into the pickup truck. “Are you ready for this?”

“I think so,” Stacy said nervously. “I hope Wildfire doesn’t run away with me or try to murder anybody,” she added only half-jokingly.

“I don’t think he will,” Ben said. “I think he’ll be too interested in trying to beat Falcon to run away with you. And I’ll be right beside you the whole time.”

Soon they reached the wide sandy expanse, the site of the race. They got the horses out and tacked them up quickly. Aqua waves crashed onto the shore onto the beach, made dusky cream by the light of early evening. And it was here that Stacy’s nervousness began to turn to excitement over what was to come. “Whoa,” she said in awe. “It’s gorgeous! I can’t wait to race through the waves!”

Ben nodded. “Yep, it should be interesting. So, Al-Maktouk is going to be standing over on that rise”—he pointed towards a low sand dune nearby—“and timing us to see how fast we go for a mile. We’ll just take the first part at a slow canter to warm them up, and then we’ll start going faster. Whichever horse gets past that pink flag over there”—he motioned towards a piece of pink surveyor’s tape attached to a piece of fence about a mile up ahead—“is the winner. And Stacy, you need to stay besides me at all times, so I can make sure that you’re safe. Got it?”

“Got it,” Stacy answered eagerly, leaning forward and situating herself in the saddle.

“Okay, now when I drop my hand, we’ll start!” Ben called to Stacy. “Ready?”

“Yeah!” Stacy answered. “And so is Wildfire!” She leaned forward and spoke quietly to the stallion. “Okay big boy, are you ready to see which of you two is the fastest horse?”

Chapter 4

Don’t You Love When Your Horse
Just Screws Everything Up For You?

Stacy immediately felt the red stallion’s body tense beneath her and strain forward like a tightly wound spring. He was more then ready to go; Stacy could feel it like it was herself running the race! She watched Ben closely. He lifted his arm; waited. The tension-wrought seconds before he dropped it seemed like minutes to Stacy.

And finally, he dropped his hand. But just as the two horses started, Wildfire stumbled, lurching right and left as he tried to recover his balance. “Easy!” Stacy said, steadying him. Just ahead of them, she saw Falcon, urged on by Ben, start out at a canter but drawing steadily away from them. Wildfire saw them, too. The sight of his foe’s retreating tail instantly enraged the stallion, an extremely competitive animal by nature. Screaming his piercing blast of challenge, he immediately hurtled after Falcon and Ben, who were by now five or six lengths ahead of them and picking up speed by the minute, obviously not noticing that Wildfire and Stacy weren’t beside them anymore.

Stacy frantically tried to hold Wildfire back, to save his strength and stamina for the finish, but the enraged stallion wanted no part of it. Clenching the bit in his teeth and slapping his ears flat against his head, Wildfire furiously wrenched his head from side to side, yanking the reins through Stacy’s fingers! She gasped at the sudden, searing pain in her hands but there was no time to worry about that now; she had to stop Wildfire from running away with her before one of them was killed!

“Whoa, Wildfire! Slow down!” Stacy screamed, hauling back on the reins with all her strength, but to no avail. She knew that there was no way he was supposed to be going this fast this early in the race! “Get a hold on yourself—you can’t waste all your speed chasing after Falcon!” Vainly, she grabbed one rein and tried to pull the stallion’s head towards the ocean, to get him to slow down, but it was no use. She now knew, without a doubt, that Wildfire was beyond her control and she was just along for the ride. As tame as the red stallion had been throughout the months he’d been brought in from the wild, beneath still remained a shadow of the wild, unbroken creature he had been before. And now that he was tasting defeat from another horse, the red stallion’s temporarily dormant inner fire was abruptly being released with an unbridled ferocity!

Desperately, Stacy leaned back as far as she could in the saddle and pulled on the reins with all her strength, but it was as if she was just a tiny fly trying to stop a raging hurricane with four powerful legs and an iron will to win no matter what the cost. It was her worst nightmare—she had lost complete control of Wildfire while Sheik Al-Maktouk and Ben had had complete confidence that she could handle him!

Through Wildfire’s flying black mane, she noticed that they were by now rapidly catching up to Ben and Falcon. The colt was running fast, but his ears were pricked, a sign to Stacy that he wasn’t going all-out yet. The rolling thunder of incessant hoofbeats echoed in Stacy’s eardrums as she bent low over Wildfire’s straining shoulders, and the earth seemed to be going past at about the speed of light. “Great. Al-Maktouk, Ben, and Mom are all going to think I’m a total idiot who can’t handle horses worth crud! They’re gonna kill me!” And then, out of the blue, a sudden flash of rebellion suddenly struck her. “Well, I don’t care what Ben and Mom and Al-Maktouk think of me. It’s not like I can stop Wildfire from running, so that’s just fine! I’ll show them that he can beat anything on four legs and I can ride him!”

She could almost hear her mom yelling at her, “Stacy Isabella Mulligan, that was the most idiotic thing you ever could have done! You could have gotten yourself killed, riding that uncontrollable monster of a horse!” and grounding her until she was at least 25. But her mother wasn’t here to know what was happening. And Stacy wasn’t going to get killed—not on purpose, anyway.

They were getting closer and closer to Falcon by the second. Stacy immediately leaned forward and began to yell encouragement at the top of her lungs, scrubbing her hands up and down his neck like she’d seen professional jockeys do on TV. “Come on, big boy! Let’s do this and show everyone just how great we are!”

She saw Wildfire’s pinned ears suddenly flick up at the sound of her voice and he thundered forward. They rocketed past Falcon and Ben like a comet, and Stacy whooped triumphantly. “We’ve got this, Wildfire! We’re gonna win, just wait and see!” She could feel the stallion’s joy at putting his contender away as he raced on.

Stacy peered back under her arm to see Ben staring at her in shock. She saw him reach back and slap Falcon on the rump, urging the colt to catch up to them. Stacy grinned gleefully and buried her face in Wildfire’s flying mane, fighting back the suddenly overpowering urge to wave farewell at the pair as they choked on hers and Wildfire’s dust—or rather, sand. “Ha, they’ll never catch us. We’re already far ahead of them, and Falcon’s making his move way too late…Won’t Ben be surprised when we beat the pants off of them!” she thought.

Just then, Stacy could almost swear she heard the tempo of furious hoofbeats increase slightly—or was she imagining things? Again, she looked back—and then gasped.

Falcon’s head was practically brushing against Wildfire’s tail! “What in the world—how did he manage to get up here so fast?! Okay, so maybe I was wrong about him making his move way too late!” Deep down, she still felt a grudging admiration that Falcon had managed to catch up to them so fast—after all, he was still her horse, although Ben was riding him.

But Stacy quickly shoved that sentimental thought to the back of her mind. Right now, Falcon wasn’t her horse anymore and Ben was just another rider trying to get the best of her and Wildfire. “Come on Wildfire, they’re catching up to us!” she shouted to her mount. In response, Wildfire put on another burst of speed—but by now, Falcon’s head was level with his sire’s heaving flanks and he was still pouring on the blazing speed.

Stacy’s heart caught in her throat as the colt leaped forward in two mighty bounds, drawing dead even with Wildfire! Head and head they nodded as one. Each dark, white-rimmed eye stared into the other. Each met the other’s challenge, staved it off, and thundered on.

And then Falcon slowly, ever so slowly, began to nose in front of Wildfire, his long, slender legs matching the red stallion stride for stride. Before Stacy could do or say anything, Wildfire, without warning, suddenly veered right into his son’s shoulder and brushing against him as he leaped recklessly forward again, forcing Falcon over. Stacy gasped, anticipating a wreck, but to her relief, the black colt regained his balance and, once again drew even with Wildfire.

Chapter 5

Living On the Edge—An Extremely
Steep and Dangerous One

Stacy heard another shout other than her own rising over the whistling wind and turned to see Ben reaching precariously over to grab Wildfire’s reins! “Stacy, what are you doing!” she distantly heard him yelling. “Slow down…” but whatever else he said was interrupted by Wildfire shaking his head, then veering off to the left, away from him.

Stacy waved back at Ben. “We’re fine!” she yelled, ignoring his incredulous look as the two racing horses pounded together neck and neck down the beach. “I don’t need help!” She slapped the reins on Wildfire’s neck, urging the red stallion to go even faster. To her amazement, she wasn’t even scared, but rather daring and ready for whatever would come her way.

“And the cautious kid that was nervous before the race has disappeared. A new Stacy Mulligan has arrived—take that, Mom!”

“Go, go!” she hollered at Wildfire, dimly hearing her voice crack, feeling as if she were about to go slightly insane from all the excitement.The red stallion trumpeted heatedly and Stacy felt him surge forwards and draw away. She gasped as she realized they were in the lead!

But as suddenly as they’d gained it, Falcon took up his sire’s challenge, his enormous strides making it seem as if he’d hardly been working before. He inched up to Wildfire until once more their sleek bodies raced as one. Neck and neck the two horses thundered, each one straining to keep his nose in front of the other. And then, so subtly Stacy wouldn’t have even noticed it if her every sense hadn’t been heightened by what was happening at the moment, the colt’s long, aristocratic nose again began to move ahead of Wildfire’s by fractions of inches…”Dang it! she thought in frustration. No matter how fast we go, we just can’t shake Falcon off! I thought we were going to beat him for sure at the rate we’re going, but…”

She gasped in dismay as her heart began to pulse in her ears, adding to the clamor of the horses’ hooves, and her adrenaline started pumping like a geyser. “Run, Wildfire, run!” she hollered crazily in the stallion’s pinned ears. “Don’t let Falcon beat you!!”

She felt Wildfire summon up a huge effort, soaring up alongside the racing black colt, who snorted loudly enough to be heard over the clamor of racing hooves, and answered his sire’s challenge. Simultaneously, both horses shot forward as if hurled from a gigantic spring! Head and head, nose and nose, they began their final drive to the wire…

Unfortunately, they didn’t get a chance to prolong the thrilling race any longer because they’d already roared past the finish line in a dull, shining blur of racing hooves and straining, sweat-sheened bodies, with each great horse still furiously striving to outrun the other!

Stacy whooped and stood up as far as she could in the stirrups, feeling like she was on top of the world. Wildly, she pumped a fist in the air and laughed in elation. “We did it!” She glanced over and saw that Ben was sitting back in his saddle and pulling back on Falcon’s reins, trying in vain to slow down the fighting colt.

She sighed as she unwillingly tightened Wildfire’s reins. “Man, that was fast! I thought a mile was going to be longer than that, but oh well…”Whoa, Wildfire! We finished the race! You need to slow down now!”

But Wildfire didn’t want to stop! He thrashed his head back and forth against the reins, begging her to let him run more. “No, fellow!” she called, her arms starting to ache from the stallion’s relentless tugging on the reins. “I know you want to run more, but it’s time to stop now! You did great!” Finally, tossing his head and snorting in disappointment, the red stallion began to slow to a grudging canter and then a trot.

Falcon was also trying to break free of Ben’s grip, tossing his head and pawing the ground, but at last, he finally relented and stopped as well. Stacy’s cheeks felt like they would crack, she was grinning so widely. “Ben!” she cried, holding her hand up for a high five. “Weren’t Wildfire and I totally awesome? He would have run and run forever if I hadn’t gotten him to stop! Come on Ben, give me some!”

But instead of slapping her palm and agreeing that the race had been awesome, Ben didn’t say anything. Instead, he was glaring at her. Then finally, he spoke. “Stacy, what in the world happened in the beginning of the race? Both horses—and you, too—could have been killed when you and Aasifat brushed up against Falcon and I!” Sensing the tension in the air, Wildfire snorted and danced sideways, and Falcon pawed the ground nervously and swished his tail, churning up divots of white sand.

For the first time, Stacy noticed the beautiful orange and purple-streaked sunset on the ocean’s horizon as she looked beyond Ben. She was just grateful there were no spectators on the beach to watch this embarrassing, to say the least, argument! Slowly, her pounding heart began to slow down as her elation over the race faded away, leaving her tired and drained of emotion.

“Well, this is certainly the perfect way to hit the beach,” she thought sarcastically. “There’s a sunset behind us that should be on a Dubai postcard, we just finished the most amazing beach workout ever, and now Ben and Al-Maktouk are probably going to kill me. Oh, and who even knows what punishment Mom will think up for me once they probably tell her. What just started out as the most perfect vacation ever is suddenly turning out to be a big fat disaster!” For a moment, she didn’t answer Ben. She wished she could just sit here on Wildfire and enjoy the view all night long. But then Ben’s angry voice rudely interrupted her tangled thoughts.

“Stacy?” he asked, and Stacy could tell he meant business this time. His dark, thick eyebrows lowered in a forbidding line across his forehead. “Are you going to answer me?”

Suddenly, Stacy was angry, too—not to mention hurt that Ben was mad at her. She knew her mom would have probably sent her back home on the next plane if she knew how she was talking, but she was too mad to care. Usually, she would never dream of yelling at anyone except her mom, but she was going to make an exception for Ben Rashid.

“It wasn’t my fault Wildfire bumped into you two!” she said heatedly. “It was an accident, and how was I supposed to stop him—say ‘Wildfire, please slow down so we won’t bump into Ben and Falcon?’” Frustrated and angry tears welled in her eyes and she furiously blinked them back. There was no way she’d let Ben see her cry. “You’re just mad that me and Wildfire were actually riding like we were in a real race, and not like a pair of wimps going out for a pleasure ride like you and Falcon were! After all, it’s not like you or anyone else could ride Wildfire and actually get him to run like I can!” Sensing her anger telegraphing through the reins, Wildfire snorted and threw up his head, almost pulling the reins through her fingers.

Stacy patted his neck as she glared at Ben. He stared at her speechlessly with his jaw hanging open. But before he could fire anything back in response, another voice interrupted him. “Actually, she’s right, Ben.” It was the sheik, standing about fifteen feet away with his white robes flapping in the breeze, his rough, tanned face expressionless. “There’s no way you or anyone else that we know of could even attempt to mount a horse like Wildfire, much less get him to race against another horse—and his own son, too. And I saw what happened.” Stacy opened her mouth to comment, but he raised a hand for silence. “It was an accident, and you know that those things happen in horse racing. It looks as though young Stacy got a little carried away with the heat of what was going on around her at the time. After all, even a professional jockey probably would have.”

Ben dipped his head to the older sheik, but Stacy could tell he was still mad. “I told Stacy she had to stay close beside me at all times during the race! What will her mother think, when she hears about this? She trusted me to keep her daughter safe!”

“Well, let’s get the story from Stacy first,” Al-Maktouk answered. “Stacy, what exactly happened when you started the race?”

Finally, a chance to tell what really happened! “When the race started, Wildfire stumbled and Falcon kept on going,” Stacy answered. “But when Wildfire saw Falcon heading down the track without him, he just went crazy and ran away with me. There was no way I could stop him no matter how hard I tried. See? I even have the marks on my hands to prove it!” She opened her hands with a wince of pain and showed them the red marks on her palms, scraped raw from attempting to hold a thousand-plus pounds of headstrong horse back.

Then Ben spoke. “So you couldn’t control him.”

Stacy just stared at him for a few seconds. Slowly, her anger began to fade away, leaving her feeling like an empty seashell on the beach with nothing left inside. “I just wanted to show everyone how great Wildfire is and how I can ride him…” She trailed off miserably and stared down at her hands holding Wildfire’s leather reins and the stallion’s black, sand-encrusted mane blowing in the breeze, refusing to meet any of the men’s accusing gazes. For a few heartbeats, all was silent.

“I have met many young apprentice jockeys, since I’ve been quite involved in horse racing for almost all of my life,” Al-Maktouk finally said, “and I’ve also seen some pretty bad wrecks that have occurred before. Although some of them were by hot-headed apprentice riders that thought they knew what they were doing, some of them just happened to be freak accidents. A lot of them were many times worse than what happened today, so why are we acting like it’s the worst thing that’s ever happened? Ben, how about we just bury this under the sand, if you will, and forget about it for the time being?” This time, he stared at Ben, until finally the younger man looked away. “Let’s not be too hard on Stacy—after all, she’s young and she lost her head in all the excitement. Do you agree?”

Ben stared at the ground for a moment and finally sighed. “Alright, I agree. Stacy, I’ve said some harsh things, and I’m sorry. But there’s an obvious reason why it wouldn’t be a good idea to let you race Aasifat in the Dubai World Cup!”

“It’s fine,” Stacy muttered, busying herself with brushing bits of sand off Wildfire’s neck. “I’m sorry, too, for what I said.”

Al-Maktouk finally broke the awkwardness of the situation by saying, “Oh, and I’m assuming both of you want to know what kind of a time you made.”

Stacy looked up sharply, instantly forgetting her feud with Ben. “Of course! What was it?”

The sheik shook his head and looked at the ground. Stacy’s heart plummeted like a stone. What if it wasn’t good? Then we won’t get to race in the Dubai Cup! Maybe they were slowed down by the wet sand, or…

“You mean—it wasn’t good?” Ben asked, obviously thinking the same thing as Stacy.

Al-Maktouk looked up again with a somber look on his face. Then, without warning, he broke into a broad grin, holding up his silver stopwatch. “No, no, it was a brilliant time they made! These two amazing horses of yours made a time of 1: 48 for a mile’s workout!”

Stacy squealed and gave a bounce in the saddle. “Oh my gosh, are you serious? That’s amazing!” She didn’t know whether it was because Wildfire was more focused on Al-Maktouk then he was on her, or whether he’d just gotten used to her acting crazy on his back, but whatever the reason, he stayed perfectly still except for flicking his ears back inquisitively.

“You got that right,” the sheik agreed. “You definitely have got a couple of champion racehorses here.”He gazed for a moment at the two remarkable horses, standing proudly side by side with their heads elevated. Then, he smiled. “They went above and beyond my expectations—we’re in the Dubai Cup!”

“That’s fantastic!” Ben said. “Stacy, give me some!” He held up his hand in the air.

For a minute, Stacy just stared at him. This reminded her a little too much of how this argument had started a few minutes ago…

“Stacy, don’t leave me hanging!” Ben urged again.

Stacy grinned. And this time, the two triumphantly slapped palms, while the waves’ splashing on the beach sounded like far-off applause.

Chapter 6

Dubai World Cup, Here We Come!

That night, Stacy breathlessly told her mom the exciting news. She and Al-Maktouk and Ben had decided to leave out the part about Wildfire running away with Stacy and only tell her the good parts. “Mom, guess what! We made a time of 1: 48 for a mile’s gallop, and now Falcon and Wildfire are going to race in the Dubai World Cup!”

They were sitting in Al-Maktouk’s stallion barn, handing out apples to all the horses and talking about what was to come with Wildfire and Falcon.

“Not together,” Al-Maktouk said with a hint of a smile on his face. “But next year, Aasifat will race, and then when he’s old enough, so will Falcon. It ought to be two of the most exciting Dubai Cups in history.”

“I wish they were racing together for real,” sighed Stacy. “That would be the best thing ever!”

“Don’t worry, Stacy,” Ben said reassuringly. “Falcon will race in a few of the Dubai prep races, to give him experience for the big one. We’ll have him train with Aasifat for the Dubai Cup. It’ll give the stallion an edge on the competition!”

“But do you think Wildfire will be able to beat the other horses in the race?” Stacy’s mom asked. Stacy glanced at her, surprised—this was the first time she’d seen her mom take an interest in all of the racing details!

“He’s got Thoroughbred blood in him, that much is certain,” Ben said. “Otherwise, he wouldn’t be this fast. The only problem: we don’t know who bred him originally nor do we know his parents. The only thing we know for sure is that he was bred in Egypt and he was abused by Juan Rafael.”

“Well, he must have been bred by a darned good breeder,” Al-Maktouk said, “because it takes much experience to create a horse like this one. Aasifat obviously has the blood of a good many horses—maybe Arab types, Thoroughbreds, and various desert breeds of horses—running through his veins.”

“Falcon’s dam was a purebred Egyptian Arabian,” Stacy said, thoughtfully gazing at her colt. “So he’s even more crossbred then Wildfire!”

“I’ll have to do some research to find out more about Aasifat’s heritage,” said Ben. “But we’ll worry about that later. As for the question of him being able to beat pureblooded Thoroughbreds at their own game, well, we’ll just have to wait and see. He’s done a few speed races and endurance events, but he certainly hasn’t done races of the Cup’s quality.”

“Well, I believe in him!” Stacy said decisively, going up to pat Wildfire on the nose. “Wildfire’ll run all those other horses into the ground, I just know it!” But then, a sudden thought came to her. “Wait a minute! I just thought of another problem. Who’s going to be Wildfire’s jockey for the race? After all, I can’t ride him—I’m too young and I definitely haven’t been trained to ride in championship races like the Dubai Cup!”

“Hmm,” Ben mused, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “That is a problem. It probably wouldn’t turn out well if we hired a man to ride Aasifat, because the only times he’s been ridden by a man have all ended in disaster. So it looks like we’ll have to find a woman to ride the stallion; since he responds best to a feminine touch. Hopefully, we can find a reliable one.”

“Oh, I’m sure we will,” Stacy’s mom spoke up. “After all, I can’t think of why a woman jockey would treat a horse badly, unlike that dastardly Juan Rafael.”

Stacy imagined Wildfire charging past the finish line, leaving the field of racehorses in the dust. It would be a long, hard road to the Dubai World Cup, she knew this for sure, but it would also be an exciting one! She unlatched Wildfire’s stall and slipped inside, leaving the adults to talk it out. “Oh, Wildfire!” she sighed happily, tangling her fingers in his warm mane. “Can you believe this is happening to us? You’re going to race in the Dubai World Cup! And Falcon is going to race in one of the prep races when he’s old enough!” Hearing his name, the black colt whinnied loudly and shoved his nose over the wall of his stall. Why in the world was Stacy paying so much attention to another horse and not him?

She giggled and blew a kiss in his direction. “Silly horse! You know you’re still my favorite next to Wildfire. And don’t you worry, you’ll have your moment soon enough.” Stacy grinned and pumped her first jubilantly in the air.

“Dubai World Cup, here we come!”

THE END (or is it just the beginning?)

* * * * *

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Here’s how you pronounce the Arabian horse names in this story:

Amira (A-meera): prosperous, full of life, princess

Al-Ahmar (Al-ah-mar): The Bay

Aasifat (A-asifat): storm

Damathat (Da-ma-sat): gentleness

Halim (Ha-leem): patience, tolerance

2 Nickers »

  1. I really liked this story, you’re description and how everything flowed was very well-put. I love Wildfire, he’s definitely a favorite (don’t tell Falcon, shhhh). And the personalities of the horses, proud and regal, is exactly how you’d imagine one of these beautiful Arabian stallions.
    The only problem I have, and I will blame it only on the fact that I’m a huge horse racing fanatic, is the realism. Stacey and Ben are jockeys as well as a normal citizen and a breeder, respectively? Also, the fact that the Dubai World Cup is for Thoroughbreds strictly, and it’s held at the end of March every year.
    But, hey, The Black Stallion or his children weren’t 100% Thoroughbreds, yet the feisty Black Minx raced in the Triple Crown and The Black won dozens of “strictly Thoroughbred” races. So why can’t Wildfire and Falcon race in the Dubai World Cup? hahahaha (:
    Anyhow, great story.

  2. I like you story and I think
    the charcters are awesome!
    ~Luna