A/N: Sorry it's taken me so long to get this up! I was up until two in the morning writing this, so I hope you all appreciate how hard I worked to get this up! Enjoy, and please, please review!! **AS**


Chapter 6: The First Race

In the months following Firestorm's purchase, Onyx was happier than she had ever been. She had his name officially changed to Firestorm, and she rode him every chance she got.
Three months after buying him, it was announced the annual local fall race would be held in two weeks.
"Why don't you enter Firestorm?" Mr. Rosenburg suggested as they family ate dinner.
Onyx fidgeted. "I dunno if I wanna race him."
Her mother frowned. "Why not? You love riding him, and if you're worried about him being frightened, I've seen the way he chases horses 'round the paddock. He'll be fine."
Onyx smiled at her mom. "Thanks mom. I think I will do it."
Chris grinned. "Good, 'cause I already entered you in the race."
"Chris!" Onyx yelled.
"What? You're gonna do it, aren't ya?" he replied defensively.
Onyx rolled her eyes and finished her dinner.
Much to Onyx's relief, Firestorm was pleased with the idea. They did not need to do much training, and the two weeks passed quickly.
On the day of the race, Onyx rose even before the rooster, and went to see Firestorm in the stables. That was were Mike found her two hours later, Firestorm shining from thorough grooming. Onyx poked her head out of the stall and smiled at Mike.
"Lemme guess, breakfast's ready."
Mike grinned. "Yup."
"Okay, two seconds."
Onyx put all the brushes back in the bucket outside Firestorm's stall, then gave Firestorm a pat and closed the stall door. Mike and Onyx talked on their way back to the house.
"What is this race for?" Mike asked. "Some town tradition?"
Onyx smiled. "Pretty much. Today is the first day of fall, and the town's held on a race on that day for as long as anyone can remember. It's supposed to bring good luck to the winner."
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After breakfast, Onyx put on riding pants, a t-shirt, and her riding boots. The local race was more for fun than anything else, and the prize was only a small trophy.
Walking outside, Onyx saw George pulling the trailer up to the barn and Mike and Chris carrying Firestorm's tack, brushes, and water bucket to the trailer. George hopped out of the truck and walked up to her.
"Almost ten o'clock," he said. "We have to be there by eleven, the race is at twelve. It'll take forty-five minutes to get there."
"So I have fifteen minutes to get him in the trailer," Onyx summarized.
George nodded. "You got it."
Onyx entered the stables and walked to Firestorm's stall. Picking up a lead, she opened the stall door.
"Come on buddy, we're going for a little ride."
She clipped the lead to his halter and led him outside. Seeing the trailer, Firestorm snorted and refused to move. Onyx sighed.
"I was afraid of this."
"Well I hope you have a solution, 'cause we have to leave in ten minutes," Chris warned.
Onyx pulled Firestorm's head down and began whispering in his ear. At first he only snorted and shook his head, but slowly he seemed to relent. Finally, Onyx released his head and began to lead him towards the trailer. He stepped slowly and tentatively, but he entered the trailer with no further complaints.
"You can close the back," Onyx called. "I'm gonna ride with Firestorm."
Chris nodded, and he and Mike closed the tailgate and joined George in the truck.
They arrived at the track with five minutes to spare, and Onyx signed in while the others set up. When Firestorm was settled, Onyx and Mike walked around to check out the competition.
"Not a bad lot," Mike remarked as they walked. "I didn't know farm horses could race."
Onyx smiled. "Farm horses can do a lot, and some would put your well-bred racers to shame."
"Think you have a chance?" Mike asked with a grin.
"As long as he leaves the gate," Onyx laughed.
They returned at eleven thirty, and Onyx began to brush Firestorm and talk to him, prepping him for the race. At quarter of she put on his saddle and bridle. At ten of she put on her helmet and mounted. George led them to their spot in the line of horses waiting to enter the track. George watched Onyx tighten her reins.
"Keep 'em that tight in the race and he won't be able to stretch 'is neck," George warned.
"Let him stretch his neck and there won't be much of a race," Onyx replied smoothly.
Finally, the track judge nodded to the first horse, and they started to move forward. Four lengths were kept between each horse as they pranced down the track towards the starting gate. Onyx smiled as Firestorm trotted down the track with his head held high while the crowd cheered. Onyx guided Firestorm into the number seven gate and watched as the other eight riders and horses entered their gates.
Onyx tightened her grip on the reins and waited for the start. The gates flew open and the horses leapt out onto the track. Onyx held Firestorm in third, using much of her strength to restrain his speed. They were going at a nice pace, passing the quarter turn in twenty-two seconds, and no matter what horses held first and second, Firestorm always held third. As they entered the far turn, Onyx allowed Firestorm to glide into the second spot. Entering the homestretch, Onyx gave Firestorm his head and he blazed down the track, crossing the finish line ten lengths in front of the second horse. They had finished the mile long race in a minute flat, and Onyx led Firestorm to the winner's circle amid thunderous applause.
Onyx accepted the trophy and stood next to Firestorm and smiled as photographers took pictures for their respective newspapers.
Onyx was very happy when they had finished and she and Firestorm could head back towards the trailer. When she arrived there, she relieved Firestorm of his tack and handed his lead to Mike. Firestorm and Mike had come to terms with each other, and they walked together peaceably as Mike cooled him down.
Onyx took off her helmet and was going to sit down when a young man carrying a pen, notebook, and reporter's badge walked up to her.
"You're the jockey of that fire-colored horse who won the race, correct?" he asked, speaking quickly and with a thick city accent.
"Yes, my name is Onyx Rosenburg. And you are?" she asked politely.
The man stuck out his hand. "Joe Walsh, reporter from the New York Times. I am currently searching for the twenty-seven fastest horses in America, and I think your horse is one of them."
Onyx blinked. "You do?"
Joe nodded. "I have a good instinct about these things," he said, winking at her. "Now, you may be asking yourself why I am searching for America's twenty-seven fastest horses, and well you should. I am sponsoring the USA's Fastest Horse race. It will be broken down like this: there will be twenty-seven horses and they will be evenly divided into three races. The top three horses from each of these races will then all compete in one big race. The top three from that race will then race separately. The winner of that race will be named the fastest horse in America."
Onyx thought for a moment. "So, as long as you're in the top three, it doesn't matter how you finish except in the last race."
Joe grinned. "You catch on fast."
"And you want my Firestorm to compete in this race," Onyx said, still in shock.
Joe nodded. "I already have nineteen horses, you'll make twenty if you accept."
"When is it?" Onyx asked.
"It'll be a three day event, December 19th, 20th, and 21st," Joe replied. "So you'll do it?"
Onyx smiled. "Yeah, we'll do it."
"Great!" Joe cried, pulling out a paper from his notepad and handing it to her along with his pen. "If you'll just fill this out, I'll send you the necessary paperwork ASAP."
Onyx filled out the sheet and handed it back to him. Joe accepted it and shook her hand.
"Great to have you on board. See you in December!"
Joe turned and walked briskly away. Onyx looked down at the small trophy sitting on the trailer wheel. It was shaped like a horse shoe, ends up, and was engraved, 'Oak Valley Lucky Fall Race '94.' Onyx smiled.
"Maybe this race really is lucky," she mused as she went to tell the others the good news.

A/N: Incase you don't know, if the ends of the horse shoe point down, the luck runs out. That's why you should always hang your horse shoes with the ends up... if you hang horse shoes, that is. =) **AS**