Originally Published 08/01/2011
Photo Source: Jessica Beebe
The Captain’s Lady looked good for Saratoga. A pure thoroughbred, he was small and lithe, just under 15 hands. But he was incredibly powerful, with a huge kick and endurance. And he had that look, that gleam that belongs to champions. He was ready for the Travers, and after that, next year, Churchill Downs loomed.
The morning before the long drive to New York dawned in peach and gold, with a fog hanging low over the rolling fields of the Hill and Dale farm, twenty miles outside of Lexington. The Captain’s Lady was being put through his final paces on the track while his owner Skip Stewart and trainer Gus Galloway leaned on the fence and looked on. The pride of their stable was already getting 7-1 for the Midsummer Derby, and he looked unstoppable.
Gus held up his stopwatch, and he and Skip both shook their heads. “I think we’ve got a winner here,” Gus said. The horse stopped and Gus gave him a good pat on the head and neck before starting the walk back to the stable, the white spires gleaming in the dew of morning. Time to pack and make preparations for the trip.
It was afternoon before anyone noticed that The Captain’s Lady was missing. His stable door was open, and the hay on the floor was kicked up, like there had been a struggle. Word traveled the farm immediately and panic ensued. “Son of a BITCH!” Skip screamed, picking up his cell to call the cops. As he was about to dial, his phone buzzed with an incoming text. It was a picture of The Captain’s Lady, muzzled, with a note around his neck reading “YOU LOSE!” Skip checked the number: Chelsea, Massachusetts. Right away Skip knew this was the work of his greatest rival.
There was no love lost between Skip Stewart and Buzz Landry. The former Boston hedge fund managers had gone in on their first thoroughbred together, and both retired for the life of a Kentucky squire together. Things went quickly south when Skip discovered that Buzz was reaching into their prize purses and grabbing a lot extra. Their friendship blew up and disintegrated, and the rivalry was on as Skip purchased Hill and Dale and, five miles down the road, Buzz purchased Flying Feet Farm.
With the physical evidence at the scene, including a dropped Massachusetts license, the cellphone ransom picture, sent on a traceable phone, the GPS trail and continual phone calls to Boston by the driver of the getaway trailer, this wasn’t exactly the crime of the century. Buzz had hired a low-level slugger from Boston, named as Rico Da Capo in the police report, to come down and “borrow” The Captain’s Lady for a few hours, just to scare his enemy, but he didn’t bargain on such a bargain-basement job. Buzz had been on a three-week Early Times bender, and this was the sad denouement.
When the units screamed into the driveway of Flying Feet Farm, Buzz Landry was passed out on the emerald green lawn, in nothing but a fedora and a pair of white briefs, surrounded by bottles of Early Times and his cell, which showed 37 incoming calls from Chelsea, Massachusetts. He surrendered without much trouble, and took the ride to the station, slurring at the top of his lungs about revenge with fiery whiskey breath spraying the shield of the cop car. He had a terrific headache sitting in the cell. Detox and charges of Grand Theft Horsey at the same time will put a crimp on a race weekend.
The Captain’s Lady, freed from his ordeal and pissed off about it, won the Travers by fifteen lengths, paying out an astonishing 12-1. Skip Stewart cherished this purse most of all. Buzz Landry didn’t see any of it.