RON BASS 5/1/22 Grace is 4 years old.. Her father Carl is a horse trainer, and their home is attached to a stable in Southern California. Grace’s mother Elissa has been sick almost since Grace was born, and they have always been extremely close. Elissa is sunny and uncomplaining, and despite her illness, she and Grace always have great times together.
Before Grace was born, Carl had been extremely successful with many clients. During that period, he made ambitious additions and improvements to the stable and took on a lot of debt to do so. Recently, the industry is in serious decline, part of his business had disappeared. Although the stable still looks vibrant and successful, the handling of this debt is an increasing problem, which Carl never shares with his dear wife whom he adores. This secret, which Carl will always bear alone, will come to play an important role in\ the narrative.
As our story begins, Elissa’s illness has proceeded to the point where she is near the end, something that will be impossible for Grace to comprehend. Elissa’s favorite mare is about to give birth and Elissa promises Grace that the foal will belong to her. The foal is being born just as Elissa is peacefully passing. There is a tender goodbye scene with Elissa that Grace can’t really understand, but she is overjoyed by the birth of a filly. Elissa asks Grace to name her Epona, who was the mother of the mother of the fabled Pegasus. Elissa had always shared her passion for mythology, and Grace carries that forward. She will come eventually to believe that somehow her beloved mother’s spirit is in this filly.
Grace is now 14, Epona gives birth to a filly, large and gawky and pure white. But deformed. Just behind the withers on each side there is a growth that looks like a large pointy chicken wing, with horsehide stretched between the two bones. Because of this, Grace names the new filly Pegasus. No one has ever seen anything like it. Grace sees her filly almost as a kid sister, a kindred spirit to the mother who has taught her about the immortal flying horse. Grace loves Pegasus with all her heart, and the filly becomes her confidante, every secret thought and feeling shared with her. Grace is the most important thing in Carl’s world, and he makes sure that all paperwork clearly names Grace as the filly’s owner.
Three years have passed Grace is 17, a brilliant student who will soon decide on which University to attend. Her conviction is that one day she will be a veterinarian. She rides Pegasus every morning in the mist before anyone else on the track, rides alone so the horse won’t be ridiculed for its deformity.
William, 19, is a groom. Grace is attracted to him, they’ve known each other a long time. He’s working a horse for a wealthy owner. One early morning during a workout, the horse turns in 6
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furlongs at a really great time. Our horse watches the fast workout of the groom’s horse and suddenly, Pegasus begins to RUN FAST, once around the track and KEEPS GOING, Grace HANGING ON and beaming with delight. The speed of the filly dazzles William. He takes out a stopwatch.
When the horse finally slows, Grace rides over to the groom who is blown away: I caught your horse in 1:09 for 6 furlongs That’s maybe four or five lengths from the track record at Santa Anita That’s not really possible. As they’re talking, Pegasus takes off with Grace again. This time, 1:08.7 Three lengths off the record at the nearby legendary track.
They run to get Carl. The horse has run two blazing works, maybe he’ll work again tomorrow, but Pegasus TAKES OFF with Grace once more.. William hands the watch to Carl, and he catches the horse in 7 furlongs at 1:21.2, four lengths off the track record.
There is resistance to letting Pegasus run in even a small race because of the deformity. But Carl persists. The bloodlines are pure thoroughbred, and of course there is no specific disqualification for chicken wings.
Pegasus will let no one but Grace on her back. After three jockeys are immediately Thrown. William gives our girl a leg up and only then will Pegasus run. And run she does, mesmerizing with fluid power and sheer speed.
Her first race, Pegasus cruises 26 lengths off the pace, Grace riding without a whip, hands caressing the broad neck of her pal, she leans close and murmurs too low to hear: I think maybe now. And Pegasus TAKES OFF, sweeping around the far turn, running them down at the head of the stretch, and they are GONE to the gasp of the small crowd.
We’ll see her in a a blur of races prepping for the Triple Crown. Every race is a new thrill as Pegasus spots the field longer and longer leads and at the whisper of the girl on her back she just mercilessly runs them all down as the crowds scream
The successes have brought attention to this promising horse, with the unique deformity. Among those interested are representatives of the fabled Aladdin Stables, owned by a member of an Arab royal family. Ajmal, 20, the handsome son of the sheikh has personally come to observe.
Ajmal offers to buy the horse for a generous sum, which would greatly help, though not completely solve, Carl’s debt. Carl refuses, the horse belongs to his daughter. Ajmal begins to take an interest in her as well, they become friendly, and William is suspicious and jealous, having to face his feelings for Grace for the first time. Ajmal helps by loaning money, interest free, and gifting the travel necessary for the bigger races which the undefeated Pegasus is moving up to conquer. He flies Grace in one of the family’s
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private planes. It is pretty intoxicating.
By the time of the Santa Anita Handicap, interest in the undefeated horse has prompted an international telecast When the race is run, Pegasus drops back 30 lengths, waiting for her human big sister to whisper to her. And when she does, the acceleration creates a GASP from the capacity crowd. Down the stretch they come, eating up the distance to the leaders, then sailing free with the crowd on its feet screaming. Everyone checking the time, the track record is not the point. This is the third fastest 1 1/8 miles ever run by any horse in any race anywhere. Ever. Two lengths back of the legendary Secretariat. The big races that are stepping stones to the Kentucky Derby, it is always the same. The Sport of Kings has never known such a buzz as swirls around this astonishing closer, the filly who looks like she could run any speed at all. And of course she can. During this time, while working the horse alone with William in the early morning, Grace experiences light-headedness, even dizziness. Twice while walking Pegasus to and from the stable in the morning mist, she actually lost consciousness for a few moments. William saw the first time. She said she was dehydrated and he mustn’t tell Carl who would only worry. It was nothing. The second time, only we and Pegasus witness, and we know this is trouble.
Kentucky Derby day, heavy security, no one can get to Grace and Carl and William who never leaves the horse’s side. Alone with Grace just before Riders Up, he whispers a good luck wish to her. He tells her for the first time how very beautiful she is, he wants the world to admire this kind, brilliant, brave and extraordinary friend he has fallen in love with.. The private moment is interrupted by Ajmal, dashing and eager to have his own private moment. He thinks he will be the one to help her mount the horse, but she says it must be William to continue Pegasus’ good luck streak.
At the parade to the post, with the world watching, she leans to whisper to Pegasus that today is different. Today is special. This is the day that everyone will remember. Whatever her dear pal has in reserve, today is the day Grace wants all of it.
As the race starts, Pegasus drops back, 25, 30, 40 lengths. Is there anyone in this throng that doesn’t own a ticket on her? And as they round the far turn, Pegasus swings WIDE for the first time, The chicken wings pull from her sides and UNFOLD into SHINING WHITE WINGS. You can almost hear the planet earth GASP as one.
Pegasus never rises an inch above the track. The exquisite wings never flap or move. Outstretched they only tilt slightly with aerodynamic efficiency, like a jet plane. She doesn’t fly, but she may as well have. With the world cheering in a hundred million places, she runs as no one has seen before, and at the wire, as they CHEER
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themselves hoarse, their eyes are fixed on the time.
Pegasus has covered a mile and a quarter in 1:56.4, smashing Spectacular Bid’s world record by the equivalent of seven lengths. They can’t scream louder so they begin to stamp their feet and we fear that Churchill Down’s grandstand may just collapse.
At the winner’s circle, Pegasus has long since folded her wings back in, With a blanket of roses across her lap, Grace is asked if she believes in miracles, Grace answers that she has always lived with the humility that we don’t have every answer to existence. Some may call it faith, Grace simply calls it the humility that will always allow her to accept.
The world may be thrilled. But the competition and the traditionalists are not. This so-called ‘World Record’ must be stricken. This horse must never be allowed to run again, especially in the Preakness. God forbid this horse wins the Triple Crown. Whatever this animal is, it is for science to examine. She is not a horse.
And they take it to court. They get an injunction from a favorable judge. This would ruin the sport forever. This magnificent animal should be only be allowed to run in exhibitions. Carl should be required to have science gently and respectfully examine this beast. Because miracles sell, but truth must be served. And there is a truth in that animal somewhere.
Carl says innocently that he doesn’t own this horse. They’ll have to come to Grace. She will not turn Pegasus over to anyone. Grace will fight for Pegasus’ right to run and win the Triple Crown
Late that nigh, alone in the stable with Pegasus, Grace collapses once more Pegaus kneels to gently nuzzle her and bring her back. She tells Pegasus that she has privately seen a doctor some time ago. Something about a balky valve in her heart. He said perhaps she should consider surgery and told her not to overly exert herself. How silly. Pegasus was doing all the exertion. She was just along for a ride. This would remain their secret.
A different kind of problem had surfaced. Suddenly, all of Carl’s creditors were calling their loans at once. Why? Was it the Derby? There was money from the purse of course, but the creditors were not obligated to accept a cure for Carl’s default, and had the right to foreclose on the farm. Ajmal says that his family can reason with the creditors if only they can buy the horse. When Carl refuses, Ajmal says that he will see what he can do anyway.
Actually it is Ajmal who has caused the banks to foreclose to give him leverage, and when this plan fails, there comes a morning when Grace goes to the stables and Pegasus is simply GONE. The panic is worldwide. Never has a manhunt held as hypnotic a fascination as this horsehunt. We alone see the private
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stables within the empire of Ajmal’s family where the horse has been taken.
The Preakness goes off without Peagsus and the world screams FOUL. Everyone is watching the hunt for their beloved wonder horse, who cares what inferior animal wins a race he never could have if Pegasus were running. The race is boycotted. Worst TV ratings ever. And Pegasus’ detractors are defeated by the very reality they said they wanted. Their sport is in decline, some say dying, this has brought the eyes of the world to them. It would be insanity, suicide, not to beg Grace to run the Belmont. If only the horse can be found.
The morning after the Preakness, Ajmal goes to the stables to see his Prize. But somehow, with every road of access guarded, Pegasus has VANISHED. This is impossible.
And that evening, after midnight, Grace goes alone to her stable to find to our astonishment that Pegasus is THERE. She is of course overjoyed, but has no reason that he has come from halfway around the world.
In the showdown meeting, surrounded by the suits, Grace herself offers the compromise. Pegasus will not use her wings in the Belmont. How does she know this? Because Grace will tell her not to. The suits agree on one condition. If the wings appear, even for a moment. Pegasus is not only disqualified, but banned from all racing forever;
Belmont day is bedlam. Everywhere. What will Grace do? We alone see Grace’s midnight talk with Pegasus. Her message: the horse should do whatever she wants. Wings and all. Grace will handle the world. Pegasus will handle the race.
The bell SOUNDS, the gates CLANG OPEN. And THEY’RE OFF. Pegasus has one last surprise for the world. Something she’s never done before. To Grace’s astonishment, she breaks to the FRONT. Chicken wings tight to her body so far.
It’s a mile and a half, the horse has never run this distance. Not only in front, she starts pulling away. Five lengths, ten, she doesn’t know how long this is, she’ll never last, she’ll lose her finishing kick. Will she use her wings after all?
AND DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME. No wings to help her she just keeps pulling steadily away 25 lengths, 30, and Grace leans to Pegasus’ ear and Pegasus finds ANOTHER GEAR. You can hear the woosh, as she SPRINTS toward the wire,
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50 lengths, 60, up on the board, Secretariat’s untouchable world record of 2:24 is posted, Pegasus and Grace a BLUR at the wire. The time: 2:19.8. The record no horse could ever come near, crushed by the equivalent of 22 lengths.
A nation, a planet, humanity united in one impossible moment. Is it for an animal the world has never seen before? Is it for the slender girl on the miracle’s back? Or is it for miracles themselves, and the humility that lets them reach us?
Our story is nearly done. Midnight at the old stable, back home. Grace and Pegasus actually alone together. Grace knows that part of this world will never let Pegasus exist. Someday he could be snatched, forced to submit to who knows what test ‘science’ has in store to prove he is something they can Understand.
They walk to an open field, the moon obscured by billowing clouds. Grace tells Pegasus that they have to say good-bye. The horse has to leave, she doesn’t really belong here. The world would never let them be together. Tears on her face, she kisses Pegasus’ muzzle for the last time. Grace steps back. Turns away/
We hold CLOSE on Grace, only HEAR the WHOOSH OF HUGE WINGS UNFOLDING. But then, only silence. Strange. Could the horse disappear in such a slience. She turns to see there across the field…
Pegasus stands motionless, majestic wings folde.
The girl gets to her feet: No, no, you don’t understand. It’s funny because you always understand everything. I know it’s hard on you, too, but it’s like every mother has to do with her children, has to cry and kiss them good-bye and send them off to live the life they are meant to live.
And on these words, for the first time, the horse actually nods. Grace repeats just above a whisper: The life they are meant to live. And now…
Pegasus looks in her eyes, and jerks her head back in an unmistakable command: COME! And our girl…
RUNS TO HER, LEAPS ON HER BACK. THE WINGS ARE OUT, THE HORSE TAKES THREE STRIDES AND…
FLIES OFF, SO FAST GRACE HAS TO HANG ONTO THE MANE, THEY CIRCLE THE STABLE, THE TRACK, THE ONLY HOME THIS GIRL HAS
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EVER KNOWN AND SUDDNENLY…
THEY FLY STRAIGHT UP TOWARD THE CLOUDS ABOVE AND DISAPPEAR INTO THEM.
For a moment we expect we will never see them again and then without warning they BREAK FREE ABOVE THE CLOUDS SO IMPOSSIBLY HIGH WE STRAIN TO SEE THEM, YET THEY GO HIGHER AND HIGHER….
Maybe they’re going to wherever Pegasus belongs
Maybe they’ll make it.