The doyen of American jockeys, following in Dick Francis's hoofprints for perhaps the first time ever, turns to fiction with this thriller about -- what else? -- a retired jockey's adventures in the post-riding world. Seven years ago, Raymond Starbuck was the Jockey Club chief steward who barred Coley Killebrew from racing after a track accident that left one rider dead and Francie Dorn, Coley's lover, wealthy and departed from Coley's bed. Now Starbuck, still active on the racing scene, wants Coley to go undercover in order to prevent high-rolling businessman Remy Courville and his Southern Boy Supplies from taking control of the Santa Rosita racetrack. Starbuck's plan calls for Coley to try fixing the Dixie Derby, at New Orleans's (and Southern Boy's) Magnolia Park, so that Remy's favored horse, Cajun Desire, will lose. It also calls for Starbuck's leggy blond daughter Lea to tip Remy off about the fix and worm her way into Remy's confidence. In return, Starbuck tells Coley, he'll give him $10,000 and Francie Dorn's current address. (He doesn't tell him that his predecessor in New Orleans has just died suspiciously.) No sooner does Coley break through a surrounding cordon of enforcers, money men, and hangers-on to make contact with Remy, than, inspired by the recent rise in mortality rates at Santa Rosita and Magnolia, he changes the plan: He'll go to work for Remy himself and see what information he can nose out -- or steal -- about Southern Boy. He doesn't count on tangling with the likes of Romeo Vetticino, Joey Lunchbox, Jerry the Hat, Hurricane Bruce -- or his one-time lover, Francie Dorn.... An appealing debut, with lots of thrills and spills, and the climactic hurricane shows just how well Coley can take a damp track -- even though, in the end, the legendary Shoe overcrowds his field with characters. Here's hoping he gives Coley another mount soon.