A Horse Racing Short Story Collection
This book made me laugh while also tugging at my heartstrings! - Amazon Reviewer
Everyone on the backstretch had at least one Crazy Cory story…
This short story collection brings to life the whacky but lovable Crazy Cory, a broken ex-jockey reborn as a healer of rogue racehorses. Experience Crazy Cory’s wild antics through the eyes of the beloved characters of BACKSTRETCH GIRLS and RACETRACK ROGUES, including:
Metalhead ponygirl Teagan and her BFF Anne
Dahlia, rescuer of rejected racehorses
Pioneer female jockey Marilyn Matteo
The notoriously cheap Charlie Miller
Beleaguered track security chief Big Ed
And many more!
One doesn’t need to have read the previous books to enjoy these fun, stand-alone stories by this award-winning author.
After thirty-six years as head security chief at Atlantic City Racecourse and Garden State Park, Big Ed Reilly thought he’d seen it all – shedrow fist fights, babies born in dorm rooms, mob bosses in the grandstand. Hell, he was even there when Garden burned down in ‘77. And then Troy, his newly-hired pony-tailed high school dropout had to go and prove him wrong. Ed had his feet propped up on his desk, gnawing on one of Bud Matteo’s sausage, pepper and egg sandwiches with a steaming cup of coffee in arm’s reach when Troy slinked in like a beagle caught pissing on the rug. “Uh, boss?”
Ed took his sweet time finishing his sandwich. After a slurp of coffee, he was finally ready to address this latest aggravation. “What is it now?”
“Um, well I know vans have to sign out their horses when they leave the track but what do I do if someone rides one of the horses out?”
Ed put his feet down. “Someone rode a horse out of the stable gate?”
“And you did nothing to stop it?”
“He caught me off guard, sir.”
Ed felt his blood pressure spike. “Did you at least see where he went?”
“Yes sir, he went to the Mc Donald’s across the street.”
Ed took a hit of coffee. “So who’s the criminal mastermind that pulled off this feat of horse-napping?”
“It was Crazy Cory, sir.”
“Crazy Cory!” Ed slapped his mug down on his desk. Coffee splattered on his hand. “Shit.” He snatched a napkin, wiped his hand, and rolled his chair away from his desk. Groaning, he hefted his 330 pound frame upright. “Let’s go.”
“Where?” Troy asked.
Ed fought back the urge to smack him upside the head. “You tell me. Whose saddle towel was the horse wearing?”
“Then that’s where we’re going, Sherlock.”
* * *
Seven minutes later, Big Ed waddled into Aaron Greer’s shedrow with Troy. Aaron had just taken a horse out of its stall and was about to leg the exercise boy up into the saddle when Ed called out, “Hey Aaron, I need to talk to you.”
Aaron held up an index finger indicating that he needed a minute. Ed waited while he tossed up the rider then made his way over to the security guards. “Morning Ed, something I can help you with?”
Ed scanned the shedrow. “Crazy Cory around?”
“He came back on my filly about fifteen minutes ago then took off on his moped.”
“Any idea where he went?”
“To Timbuktu for all I know. Why, did he do something?”
“For starters, he rode your filly to the Mc Donald’s across the street.”
Aaron blinked. “For real?”
“Yes sir,” Troy piped up. “Even came back with a Big Mac.”
“That son of a bitch.”
“I feel your anger,” Ed sympathized. “He’s lucky the horse wasn’t hurt crossing the street.”
Aaron shook his head. “I ain’t mad about that no-count flipper, I’m pissed cuz Cory didn’t bring me anything.”
“Do you want to file a complaint?”
“A complaint?” Aaron laughed. “Hell no. Cory can ride her to China for all I care as long as he stops her from flipping.”
Face flaring, Ed stomped back to the truck. Troy wisely kept his mouth shut and a few paces behind him. Ed fired up the truck and fumed his way through the backstretch. This was the final straw. He was tired of the complaints, the outriders bitching about Cory playing circus rider out on the track, trainers barging into his office in a panic after not seeing hide nor hair of their horse for over two hours. Once he found Cory, he was going to grab him by his scrawny little neck and throw him the hell off the backstretch. Ed pulled up to the dorm, killed the engine and grunted out of the truck. He lumbered up the hallway and pounded Crazy Cory’s door for over five minutes. No answer.
Troy picked his nose. “What now, boss?”
“Now, I drop you off at the stable gate. Try not to let anymore horses leave.”
Ed had heard enough complaints about Cory’s long horseback tours of the barn area to bother even trying to look for him. Besides, it was almost time for his noon nap. As for Cory, he’ll get him all right, all he had to do was wait by the stable gate tomorrow morning and catch him in the act.
* * *
One of the benefits of being the security chief was dictating your own hours. Just because the horses started training at six a.m. didn’t mean that Ed had to haul his ass out of bed at the crack of dawn. No siree, he was strictly a nine to five man. But this morning as Ed poured his first cup of coffee, Troy slunk into his office and started chattering, “I’m sorry sir, there was nothing I could do, he just slipped past us…”
“Quit blubbering and get to the point,” Ed snapped.
“Crazy Cory did it again, sir.”
“Rode out of the stable gate.”
“And you just sat there and let him?” Ed seethed.
“No boss, he snuck out.”
“And how the hell does someone sneak out on a thousand pound animal?”
Troy hung his head. “I’m sorry sir, it was my fault. I knew I shoulda done a walk around on that horse van but it was cold out. I never dreamed that Cory would be hiding on the other side. As soon as I dropped the rope to let the van out, Cory rode right past me and out the gate.”
The kid was an even bigger idiot than he’d suspected. Ed closed his eyes. Blood pressure, remember your blood pressure. He took several breaths before finally asking, “So is Cory still at the McDonald’s?”
“No, this time he went to Dunkin’ Donuts. Here.” Troy handed him a bag. “He bought enough for all of us.”
Ed threw the bag into the trash. “And you just let him back in?”
Troy nodded and mumbled apologies but Ed wasn’t having it. “That’s it - from now on no horse vans leave without a walk-around.”
“As for you, you’re to stand guard at Cory’s dorm room until he gets back. I don’t care how long it takes, you aren’t leaving until you have him in custody. Got it?”
“Yes sir.” Troy scuttled out of the office.
As soon as Troy was out of Ed’s line of sight, he dug the Dunkin’ Donut bag out of the trash.
* * *
Troy returned just before noon with Crazy Cory in custody. Without looking up from his Daily Racing Form, Ed barked, “Pack up your stuff, Cory, you’re outta here.”
“With all due respect sir,” Cory replied, “You can’t just throw me out, not without a ruling by the stewards first.”
Ed put his paper down. So Cory isn’t that crazy after all. “Sure, we can go through all the rigmarole if you want, but in the end the stewards always back me up.”
“See you at the hearing,” Cory replied and walked out of the office.
Three days later when Big Ed went to give his statement to the stewards there was a crap-ton of people waiting outside of their office. He hustled over to Troy. “What’s all this?”
“Character witnesses, sir,” Troy replied.
“Character witnesses? Seriously? When did Crazy Cory become Perry Mason?”
As usual, Ed was the first one called into the office. He was sworn in and shown to his seat. The office was stuffy and two of the three stewards stifled yawns. When he looked over at Crazy Cory he was shocked to see that he was wearing a suit and tie and looked very much sane. Next to him sat Marilyn Matteo. Why a well-respected jockey like Marilyn would come to this nutjob’s defense was anyone’s guess, but in the end it won’t matter. Crazy Cory was going down. Big Ed testified for over thirty minutes, listing all of Cory’s misdeeds and how they put the horses he rode in jeopardy. “I’ve warned him time and time again but he doesn’t listen. He’s a danger to himself and others and needs to be ruled off. Permanently.”
The head steward Sterling Hart, then turned to Cory. “Is there anything you’d like to say in your defense?”
Cory shook his head. “No sir, I did everything he said I did.”
Marilyn Matteo cleared her throat. “I’d like to make a statement.”
“Go ahead, Miss Matteo,” Sterling said.
“I’ll admit that while Cory’s methods are a bit unorthodox, the truth is that they work. There are five trainers outside, waiting to testify how Cory turned their horses around and made them into winners. Cory gave those horses a second chance and without him, who knows where they might have ended up?”
Fixing his gaze on Cory, Sterling said, “That’s all well and good but what possible explanation can there be for riding a horse to Mc Donald’s?”
“She really likes the French fries,” Cory shrugged.
Marilyn stood up. “Sir, why don’t you ask the horse’s trainer, Aaron Greer? He’s right outside the door.”
“All right Miss Matteo, send him in.”
After Aaron had been sworn in, Sterling asked, “Did you give Cory permission to take your horse Princess Joanie off the track?”
“I gave Cory permission to do whatever’s necessary to straighten that filly’s head out. I couldn’t get Princess Joanie near the track without her trying to rear up and flip over. Tried blinkers, ponies, the works. Heck, you all were going to rule her off, remember?”
All three stewards nodded.
“Figured I had nothing to lose so I put Cory on her and he took her everywhere but the track. Got her so confused she had no idea where she was going. Can’t really explain it but somehow she must’ve got so desensitized that when he finally did take her to the track she walked right on like it was no big deal. So yeah, if a trip to the golden arches is what it takes to put her right then all I have to say is next time bring me back a cheeseburger.”
Sterling laughed. Ed stewed. This was unbelievable – they were actually considering letting Cory off! Ed stood up and cleared his throat. “Excuse me but aren’t we forgetting about safety here? That horse could have been hit by a car!”
“Not at all,” Sterling replied. “We will discuss this in private and issue our ruling within the next few days. You are all dismissed.”
Three days later, the stewards fined Cory $250 and made him promise not to ride any more horses off the track. Done. Time for Ed to move on to bigger things - such as blackmailing more sandwiches out of Bud Matteo in exchange for ignoring his illegal hot plates. For two blissful days, Ed didn’t receive a single Cory complaint. Maybe the stewards scared some sense into the buffoon. On day three, Big Ed had just settled in with his mid-morning coffee and donut when Troy popped his head into his office. “Um sir, can I ask you a question?”
“What is it?” Ed sighed.
“Are horses allowed in the track kitchen?”