Story type: Literature
We were training two horses for the Buckatowndown races — an old grey warrior called Tricolor — better known to the station boys as The Trickler — and a mare for the hack race. Station horses don’t get trained quite like Carbine; some days we had no time to give them gallops at all, so they had to gallop twice as far the next day to make up.
One day the boy we had looking after The Trickler fell in with a mob of sharps who told him we didn’t know anything about training horses, and that what the horse really wanted was “a twicer” — that is to say, a gallop twice round the course. So the boy gave him “a twicer” on his own responsibility. When we found out about it we gave the boy a twicer with the strap, and he left and took out a summons against us. But somehow or other we managed to get the old horse pretty fit, tried him against hacks of different descriptions, and persuaded ourselves that we had the biggest certainty ever known on a racecourse.
When the horses were galloping in the morning the kangaroo-dog, Victor, nearly always went down to the course to run round with them. It amused him, apparently, and didn’t hurt anyone, so we used to let him race; in fact, we rather encouraged him, because it kept him in good trim to hunt kangaroo. When we were starting for the meeting, someone said we had better tie up Victor or he would be getting stolen at the races. We called and whistled, but he had made himself scarce, so we started and forgot all about him.
Buckatowndown Races. Red-hot day, everything dusty, everybody drunk and blasphemous. All the betting at Buckatowndown was double-event — you had to win the money first, and fight the man for it afterwards.
The start for our race, the Town Plate, was delayed for a quarter of an hour because the starter flatly refused to leave a fight of which he was an interested spectator. Every horse, as he did his preliminary gallop, had a string of dogs after him, and the clerk of the course came full cry after the dogs with a whip.
By and by the horses strung across to the start at the far side of the course. They fiddled about for a bit; then down went the flag and they came sweeping along all bunched up together, one holding a nice position on the inside. All of a sudden we heard a wild chorus of imprecations — “Look at that dog!” Victor had chipped in with the racehorses, and was running right in front of the field. It looked a guinea to a gooseberry that some of them would fall on him.
The owners danced and swore. What did we mean by bringing a something mongrel there to trip up and kill horses that were worth a paddockful of all the horses we had ever owned, or would ever breed or own, even if we lived to be a thousand. We were fairly in it and no mistake.
As the field came past the stand the first time we could hear the riders swearing at our dog, and a wild yell of execration arose from the public. He had got right among the ruck by this time, and was racing alongside his friend The Trickler, thoroughly enjoying himself. After passing the stand the pace became very merry; the dog stretched out all he knew; when they began to make it too hot for him, he cut off corners, and joined at odd intervals, and every time he made a fresh appearance the people in the stand lifted up their voices and “swore cruel”.
The horses were all at the whip as they turned into the straight, and then The Trickler and the publican’s mare singled out. We could hear the “chop, chop!” of the whips as they came along together, but the mare could not suffer it as long as the old fellow, and she swerved off while he struggled home a winner by a length or so. Just as they settled down to finish Victor dashed up on the inside, and passed the post at old Trickler’s girths. The populace immediately went for him with stones, bottles, and other missiles, and he had to scratch gravel to save his life. But imagine the amazement of the other owners when the judge placed Trickler first, Victor second, and the publican’s mare third!
The publican tried to argue it out with him. He said you couldn’t place a kangaroo-dog second in a horse-race.
The judge said it was HIS (hiccough) business what he placed, and that those who (hiccough) interfered with him would be sorry for it. Also he expressed a (garnished) opinion that the publican’s mare was no rotten good, and that she was the right sort of mare for a poor man to own, because she would keep him poor.
Then the publican called the judge a cow. The judge was willing; a rip, tear, and chew fight ensued, which lasted some time. The judge won.
Fifteen protests were lodged against our win, but we didn’t worry about that — we had laid the stewards a bit to nothing. Every second man we met wanted to run us a mile for 100 pounds a side; and a drunken shearer, spoiling for a fight, said he had heard we were “brimming over with bally science”, and had ridden forty miles to find out.
We didn’t wait for the hack race. We folded our tents like the Arab and stole away. But it remains on the annals of Buckatowndown how a kangaroo-dog ran second for the Town Plate.