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At Dellington Park racing track, down-and-out jockey agent Boots Malone lives with ex-jockey Stash Clements in trainer Preacher Cole's tack room. Boots has not represented a jockey for two years since his prize client died in a stable mishap, and is continually hounded by big-time gambler Matson for repayment of a loan. One evening at the local diner, Boots and Stash are startled when an unfamiliar teenager, Tommy Gibson, attempts to pay for his meal with a hundred dollar bill. Boots sizes Tommy up as an easy mark and upon discovering his interest in horses, convinces him to stay in Preacher's tack room, where he tries unsuccessfully to steal the hundred dollars. Boots does convince Tommy to pay for them to stay at a hotel, and impressed by a speech Boots gives the next day at Dellington Park, Tommy asks Boots to train him as a jockey. When Tommy offers to pay him, Boots agrees. Soon Tommy is mucking out stalls and cleaning the tack room. Slick agent Brady, meanwhile, convinces wealthy horse owner Howard Whitehead that Preacher's only horse, Mother, is a good risk in the next claim race and to Preacher's dismay, Mother is bought out from under him. Boot arranges with Whitehead's trainer, Beckett, to get Preacher one of Whitehead's horses, White Cargo. They tape weights onto the horse's ankles before his next race and when Whitehead sees the horse's poor performance, he quickly agrees to sell him at auction. Boots organizes all the jockeys to contribute money to buy White Cargo and raises $1,400. The next day at the auction, when a drunk pushes the bid to $1,500, Tommy contributes the extra hundred dollars. Deciding to move the horse south to train away from Whitehead, Boots refuses to take Tommy, until the boy demands a refund for the training he paid for but never received. Grudgingly, Boots allows Tommy to come along. On the trip the car overheats, and as Tommy walks out White Cargo, the horse is startled by a rattlesnake and bolts. Tommy hangs on and manages to bring the horse under control. Impressed by Tommy's ability, Stash induces Boots to train Tommy as White Cargo's jockey, despite his being a year shy of the age limit. Stash works on Tommy's conditioning and Boots joins in his training. When Tommy grows curious about Boots's past, Preacher tells him that Boots lost his wife in childbirth fifteen years earlier. Later, Boots reacts uncertainly when Tommy registers for his jockey license as Tommy Malone. Preacher takes over Tommy's training and readies him for his first race. Unknown to Tommy, Boots and Preacher weigh down White Cargo's shoes before the race so he will finish poorly and drive his odds up for future races. Tommy loses the race and is devastated. Boots arranges for him to ride another horse in the next race, and Tommy wins and regains his confidence. On the trip back north, Boots realizes they are being followed and, worried that Matson has tracked him down, calls the gambler with a tip to bet heavily on White Cargo. Upon arriving at Dellington Park, Stash reports that they have been followed by a private detective who is looking for Tommy. Boots jumps the man and learns Tommy has run away from a posh boarding school and lied about his whereabouts to his mother, the wealthy head of a perfume factory. Boots contacts Mrs. Gibson, who flies in the day before the race and takes Tommy away, convincing him that Boots turned him in for a reward. That night, Tommy secretly breaks away from his mother and returns to Dellington to berate Boots, before admitting he only came back for Boots's approval. Boots calls Mrs. Gibson, but cautions her if she does not allow Tommy to race she will lose his respect forever. Brady, meanwhile, contacts Matson and tells him to place all bets, on Whitehead's horse and assures him White Cargo is a loser. When Boots hears about the bets, he asks Tommy to throw the race so Whitehead's horse can win, but Tommy refuses. During the race, several jockeys crowd Tommy against the rail, but he wins. That night at the train station, Tommy tells Boots that he has promised his mother to return to school and she has agreed to buy a stable, which Tommy asks Boots to manage. Boots refuses but as the train departs, Stash drives up and tells him Matson is waiting for him, so Boots jumps on the train, where Tommy happily welcomes him.