The Thoroughbred Conspiracy
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Tucker Flannery, one hand on the steering wheel and the other trying to keep a cardboard box containing two large Styrofoam cups of coffee from spilling onto the seat of his Ford pickup, sped along the back roads of Kentucky, well within the heart of Thoroughbred country. It was a special night as Kissin Kouzins, winner of the Winston Challenger Cup and over $350,000.00, was in foal to Heart Lancer, stallion of the year in 1992 and 1993. Tuck had watched this horse grow from birth and, as manager of Fairhaven Farm, was in a hurry to be by the side of his prized mare. As the truck pulled into the lot behind the foaling barn, the late March night, thick with chilly damp fog, permeated Tuck’s sleeveless jacket.
“Hey Doc, how’s it looking?”
Doc Baich, retired veterinarian, horse lover and close friend of Mrs. Audra Marcum Blevins, owner of Fairhaven Farm, was kneeling at the hind-quarters of the laboring brood mare.
“Hell if I know. Sure looks weak from here.”
They had detected a faint heartbeat, but knew by the way the mare was carrying the foal that the offspring was not completely healthy. Kissin Kouzins, soaked with sweat and nearing exhaustion, nickered gently as Doc Baich grabbed the legs of the offspring protruding halfway through her birthing canal. Tuck went to the mare’s head and began stoking her cheek, offering what little support he could.
“Come on now,” said Doc Baich. “Just a little further. That’s it. There ya go now, easy does it.”
And with a final push and a weary groan, Mother Nature shook loose her newest Thoroughbred charge.
“Ohhhh Shhhhhit,” said the doctor, in a sorrowful voice. “Looks like we got us another one. Damn!”
It was the fifth straight foal death that week and Tuck was angry. There appeared to be an overabundance of stillborn foals in Central Kentucky, and Tuck, as well as other members of the breeding industry, were alarmed. Something had infected the best of the breed and was wreaking havoc on the most talented Thoroughbred lineage in racing history.
Tuck called Carney Puckett, Fairhaven’s head trainer, who’d spent the previous night at Turbalinda Farm where a seventh consecutive foal of Royal Thunder’s had been stillborn.
“Looks like we got a frigin virus around here. Damn, the only one we got that’s worth anything don’t weigh 70 pounds,” he barked into the phone to Carney. A newborn Thoroughbred should weigh on the average between 95 to 120 pounds and should gain its legs within sixty to ninety minutes following birth.
“Dammit, this thing’s outta control. Dammit! Hang on!”
Tuck turned to Doc Baich, “Doc, what about that friend of yours from the research center, that biologist. She ever call you back?”
“Nope, not yet. Whadayasay we give her a call?”
Gwendolyn Gardot, a 38 year old microbiologist employed at the Kentucky Equine Research Center, awoke to the sound of her phone ringing on the table beside her bed.
Not this early, she thought. Her life had become a nightmare ever since this thing with the newborns had started, and she knew if she didn’t have an answer soon, there would be hell to pay.
She was a slight woman, but all business when it came to her work.
Please Lord let this be some good news. “Hello,” she said, in a sleepy voice.
“Gwen, Doc Baich here. I’m over at Fairhaven and, hell Gwen, we’ve got another one,” his voice dropping to a tone beyond sadness.
“Not Kissin Kouzins?”
“Yeah, Gwen, this thing’s bad. Real bad. Have you found anything?”
“Doc, the only thing I can tell you right now is that we’re doing everything we can.”
“Give me that,” said Tuck grabbing the phone out of the doctor’s hand.
“Doctor Gardot, this is Tucker Flannery. I’m the manager of Fairhaven Farm. What the hell are you people doing over there?”
Startled, and not used to being addressed in that tone of voice, Gwen fired back, “I can assure you, we are doing everything we can to resolve this situation.”
“Situation! Is that what you’re calling it, a situation?” Tuck looked at Doc Baich and snarled, “Now they’re calling it a situation.”
“Well, we’ve got more than a goddamn situation here missy!”
Having been under extreme pressure ever since becoming involved in this puzzling dilemma, she was quick to respond.
“Believe me, you’re not telling me anything I don’t already know,” her voice somewhere between angry and professional.
“Well, when can WE expect to know something?”
“The moment I know myself.”
Tuck knew he had no right to take his frustration out on Doctor Gardot like that, and in a split second, felt ashamed.
“Okay, I uh, well look, thanks. I’m sorry. Guess I was just,” Tuck handed the phone back to Doc Baich and stormed out of the barn.
A sinister plot to control the Thoroughbred racing industry has hatched in the Middle East, and is destroying the equine bloodlines of Kentucky.
Is the villainous plot sounding the death knell for the horseracing industry?
Can the efforts and passions of Tucker Flannery, manager of Fairhaven Farm, and Doctor Gwendolyn Gardot, a research microbiologist with the Kentucky Equine Research Center, interpret the ravenous disturbance in time to restore the noble breed to its kingly reign? A globe-trotting story of brotherly hatred, revenge, murder, passion, and the overwhelming love of horses.