The 4.55

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A short Horse racing and gambling story of how fate can smile on you one moment only to crush you seconds later. ‘I can control my destiny, but not my fate. Destiny means there are opportunities to turn right or left, but fate is a one-way street. I believe we all have the choice as to whether we fulfil our destiny, but our fate is sealed.’ - Paulo Coelho

The 4.55

The jockey and horse lay motionless on the ground. The sun had begun to lower on the horizon, bringing with it a dimming of light which seemed to illuminate the fall. I could see and feel my breath as the temperature dropped. Racegoers stood silently in horrified shock from what they had just witnessed. It must have been literally only a few minutes before the ambulance crew were attending the jockey but it seemed to take ages. Screens were now erected to hide the carnage. Everyone seemed to be in dismay. Total shock. “What the hell, did you see what happened? Do you think they are ok? It didn’t look good! Still no news or movement. Over the tannoy, there is an announcement that there will be a delay of thirty minutes to the following race as racegoers head to the bars and eating areas. All the talk is about the fall. Still no news. Nearly ten minutes have passed. The fortuitous winner had been displayed in the winner’s enclosure to a muted crowd. An ambulance helicopter hovered over the course.

Amateur jockey Sean O,Grady had just turned seventeen years of age and had been making a name for himself. He was top of the leader’s board for the Amateur Jockeys championship. He had won thirty-six races in this current season, his first. Amazingly Sean hadn’t even sat on a horse until just over a year ago. The horse, Dark Night had won his last two steeple chases and was just about to complete the treble. The pair had kicked for home and skipped ten lengths ahead of their nearest rival and were traveling with great ease. Dark Night had put in an almighty leap at the fence, the tenth and last one in the race. He had over stretched, sent the birch flying and had catapulted to the other side leaving Sean sandwiched between ground and himself, some three quarters of a ton in weight.

Eddie Fenwick was at the races to watch his horse win. The story has it that he had bet everything he had in the world on Dark Night to win at odds of four to seven on. As horse and jockey approached the last fence; in his heart he knew he had won. Redeemed himself. His chest was full of light hysterical strain of hope but underneath it was a deep sickening pit of darkness. The knowledge of destruction. For a split-second salvation looked to have arrived. Then, we’ll you know what happened. 

Eddie had started betting in his early twenties, just for a bit of fun; to escape the monotony of everyday living. His interest grew when a friend of his gave him a tip for a horse. That day, he had his first proper bet as he liked to put it; fifty pounds to win at odds of eight to one. The horse romped home and Eddie pocketed four hundred pounds, which at the time was twice his weekly take home pay. He had been fairly successful betting with his two- or three-pound bets. This was another level. That day, funded by his winnings he started betting in larger amounts. Sticking to the old adage ‘You have to speculate to accumulate’. Some twenty years had now passed and horse race betting has been part of his daily life for most of that time. Having had several bad weeks of betting he had succumbed to the hardest won lesson of all, you must not chase your losses. He got the hots, tried to smash his way out of trouble and lost every penny he was able to get his hands on. He had also maxed out all his credit cards. In his mind this was going to be his last bet, the mother of all his bets. He had borrowed one hundred thousand pounds using the family house as collateral. He was now accumulated over one hundred and sixty thousand pounds of debt. Eddie is married with two young children. His wife had no idea he was gambling to such an extent. Eddie never discussed his gambling but they had had some nice holidays when he was winning.

Sean O’Grady, a tall skinny young lad with long dangly legs and arms, mousy brown hair and boyish looks wasn’t born to be a jockey. Far from it. His dad had worked at the Nissan Motor Manufacturing factory in Sunderland all of Sean’s life, as had his grandfather. His brother had just started work there too. He was destined to join them and furthermore, had boasted he was looking forward to the prospect. That was until one early morning his brother was unable to do his paper round and Sean filled in. Part of the round was to deliver papers to the local stables of race horse trainer James Nicholls. Park house Farm was the furthest of his deliveries on the outskirts of Newburn. About twenty minutes on his bike. That morning he was in awe of the racehorses as they cantered out at exercise. Fate played its part and he ended up talking to James, who offered him some weekend work mucking out if he was interested. The stable was struggling with staff shortages and it didn’t take long before Sean was persuaded to try his hand and riding exercise. He was allowed to do some light work with one of the retired horses in his care. He was a natural. James was so impressed with him he was encouraged to keep practicing. Throughout the summer, Sean spent all of his time at the stables. His progress was amazing. So much so, James offered him an apprenticeship at the stables. Within this short space of time he was riding out with the professional jockeys. It has to be said, His dad wasn’t keen as he didn’t see working at the stables as a proper job, not to mention the dangers. His mother could see the happiness it gave to her son and continued to encourage him. Whilst his dad wasn’t a fan of horse racing, he had been to Catterick and Newcastle racecourse to watch his son race. The whole family had! Deep down he was very proud of him. He just couldn’t bring himself to say it. 

Eddie is now in a state of deep depression. He is beside himself. He feels destroyed. He had sent himself into a world of which there is no way out. His hands and back are pouring with sweat, his head is spinning with anxiety and he can’t think straight. He feels sick and his stomach is churning. He is tearful and ashamed. How was he going to feed his family? Why had he been such a fool? He feels he is unable to go home and tell his wife what he had done. Eddie’s head is all over the place and he can barely see the screen of his phone as he sends a text message to his wife: I love you all. I’m sorry x

By now, Sean’s parents have been contacted by Martin Edmonds the senior paramedic at the scene and instructed to meet him at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle as quickly as they can. He didn’t want to discuss Sean’s condition over the phone but informed them Sean had been in a horrible fall. He was alive but very poorly. Sean’s mother was beside herself with worry. His dad tried to reassure her but deep down he feared the worst.

James Nicholls was visibly distraught with the carnage he had witnessed. Whilst race horse trainers want to win races, yes of course they do; every trainer up and down the country will tell you the most important thing they wish for is that their horse and jockey returns home safely. This time Sean and Dark Night wouldn’t be coming home. Whilst in reality Park House Farm wasn’t that far away, it was going to be a long journey home with the horse box empty and the driver’s carriage silent of Sean’s chirpy voice.

It is now becoming visibly dark and tranquil reds and purples sit peacefully in the skyline. The last race has been abandoned. There was no explanation. Racegoers were simply told to leave as soon as possible. I have never witnessed such a sedate crowd leaving the races. It was as if they all knew the worse before it had finally been revealed.

I look at my Twitter feed on my iPhone to see if there is anything about the accident. I don’t know why but I was surprised when I saw it had made headline news: JOCKEY DIES IN FALL! Racegoers had a horrid time today after witnessing the tragic death of Jockey Sean O’Grady when his horse fell on top of him. The phone pings with a new tweet: CATTERICK BRIDGE SUICIDE! Trains from Catterick Bridge races were delayed this evening due to a person on the track. Police have yet to identify the body.

Submitted: February 23, 2020

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Add Your Comments:


Peter Piper

Hi there, just read your story, a bit dark for me I prefer a happy ending! Having said that, the story should be a lesson to all of us mug punters. I came at racing from the other end. If you get the opportunity have a look at my story "The Proposal" regards Peter.

Wed, March 25th, 2020 2:56pm


Hi Peter
Thanks for your comment. I do tent to right from a bleak side of life or though that’s the complete opposite to my own mindset.
I look forward to reading your story and will let you know my thoughts. If you get a chance I would be grateful to know your thoughts on another short story I wrote.
And you are right nothing in life is certain - and in particular gambling. I followed horse racing all my life and have witnessed some tragic situations caused by people’s gambling habits.
Speak soon
Peter (my name too)

Wed, March 25th, 2020 9:18am

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