Feb 29, 2008

What does "financial deal" mean to you?, TB# 6: Wonder's Yearling

Wonder's Yearling
by Joanna Campbell
Thoroughbred #6
Original Publication: 1993

Thoroughbred #6 is another one of those unfortunately titled books. Wonder's Yearling. Yeah. Wonder gave birth, and that foal spent some time being a year old. What the hell does this have to do with Thoroughbred #6? Absolutely nothing. I will elaborate in a moment. But first, the cover:

I love this cover. It's my favorite Sammy cover, despite her irrational preference for denim and the whole riding school aspect of the background. However! It's got all the pretty beams of light and Pride looks precisely how I picture him in my head (despite him supposedly looking like Wonder and since Wonder never had a blaze the covers are technically all errors, but whatever). Still love it.

On to the summary:

Is this good-bye?

When Samantha McLean hears that her beloved horse, Wonder's Pride, is about to be sold by the owner of the farm where Samantha lives, she thinks her heart will break. But Samantha knows she has to be strong if she's going to save Wonder's Pride from the auction block.

The more Samantha finds out, the more hopeless the situation seems. It's not just Wonder's Pride, but all of the Townsend Acres breeding farm that's in danger of destruction.

Time is growing desperately short when Samantha turns to her friend Ashleigh Griffen, a legend in the Townsend Acres stables. Ashleigh is eager to help, but what can two young girls do to save an entire farm?

Okay, the great thing about this whole book is that the summary hints that Ashleigh and Samantha do something to save Townsend Acres. The thing is: they don't do anything. Well, if you want to count whining and/or freaking out as doing something, they do something. Otherwise the only person who actively saves Townsend Acres is Mr. Townsend, and what he does is never made clear. He just does something and presto! Saved farm! How easily it all falls into place when none of the main characters have to do much of anything at all.

In terms of plot, this one is pretty packed full of action:

#1. Townsend Acres is going to ruin. As it turns out, no one knows exactly why. It's left mainly to speculation, but one thing is for sure: Brad isn't helping. So, because the farm is going to ruin Mr. Townsend is forced to consider selling his interest in Pride and Wonder, which leads us to...

#2. Pride. Pride is like God in the form of a horse. Seriously, he's this seventeen hand giant with a "copper" coat and a "noble nose" and he does everything perfectly because he is the sublime horse and shows his amazing fantastical properties even before he's put to saddle! Oh, to be such a horse! So, anyway, everyone gushes on and on about Pride. Pride is going to be an amazing race horse, stud, and plans to author his own autobiography by the time he's three. If you're not gushing over Pride, you're plotting to buy him or sell him. Which leads us to...

#3. Brad! Oh, it's been too long. So, everything bad in this book either happens because Brad caused it or because Brad is somehow vaguely involved. He spends a lot of time pushing grooms around (this is like what he does as a favorite past time), driving around in his Ferrari, making poor hiring decisions, buying crappy racehorses because he "can't see talent" or something, glaring at Pride at every opportunity, and arguing with Ashleigh in private. Which could very well mean they're shagging like crazy in some dark corner. We don't know. It's Brad we're talking about here, so anything is possible.

  • Samantha has an unusually large role in Pride's training. As in she appears to be the only person involved in his early yearling training. This is a 14-year-old girl and a multi-million dollar racehorse here. Then it's justified by reminding us that Ashleigh "helped" train Wonder. Obviously the fact that she was only allowed to "help" after Wonder was cast aside as auction-bound was forgotten.
  • Since when does Hank have any opinion that counts? He's a groom. No one cares.
  • Townsend Prince dies, giving everyone the chance to feel sympathetic to Brad for about five seconds and reassure each other that they always thought Prince was "a nice horse" but unfortunately not as good as his half-sister. Never mind that Wonder isn't actually his half-sister. And wow, everyone is so full of crap in the first four chapters of this book.
  • Townsend Prince was turning into "one of their best" stallions. He's six years old when he dies, and if he went into stud at four that would mean his first foals are yearlings. You will notice that not one yearling or weanling on the farm is mentioned as one of Townsend Prince's. The horse should have over two hundred foals on the ground by now and not a one of 'em mentioned. How flipping great could he have been?
  • Pride is so great that even his nose is "noble."
  • *gasp!* Mr. Townsend wants to sell his interest in Wonder and Wonder's Pride. But, doesn't he understand she's a champion and the best mare on the farm? (Never mind she's only had one foal who is currently only two...does not a "best mare" make, in my opinion.) Why, yes! Yes, I think he does get that, Sammy. Hence why he's selling his share.
  • He'd "never sell" the stallions because they make so much on stud fees. Yeah. Because selling stallions is not a financial goldmine at all and is never done. Nope. Never.
  • Suddenly all of Wonder's earnings are in a trust fund. When the hell did this happen and how did Ashleigh buy Fleet Goddess if she didn't have access to that money?
  • Great. Now Wonder is the most valuable mare on the "East Coast" at around $2 million. Again, she's only had one foal, which has not raced. The facts astonish and delight me.
  • Okay, so let's tally the awful things that Brad has done in this book: bought two worthless colts for too much money and thus singlehandedly screwing his own farm, hired a mean/abusive breeding manager, gave said breeding manager a heads up when his work was to be inspected, which could be construed as simply making an appointment but is viewed as suspicious behavior by everyone, naturally. Wow, Brad's on a roll! Way to be needlessly, stupidly evil!
  • Ashleigh always assumes her opinions and plans don't count compared to Mr. Townsend/Brad's plans or the proposed new half-owner's plans. She owns half-interest, giving both owners equal control and she always acts second class. Perhaps that's why she has the problems she does. Step up to the plate, Ashleigh. Stop whining and put your damned foot down for once.
  • No one seems to really grasp the nature of foreclosure. Stuff happens, people. Stop whining about how it's not fair.
  • "Well, there's still a chance Townsend will come to his senses." How, Charlie? By magically making money appear out of nowhere?
  • Ah, Samantha's going on a date with Tor and insisting it isn't a date. Where have we seen this before?
  • Maureen asks: "Are you two talking horses again?" Yvonne says: "You have something against horses?" Maureen backpedals: "You know I like horses." I can just see Yvonne curling her fingers into fists and adding "bitch!"
  • Joanna seems to forget that Brad, as heir to the farm, owns half of Pride. Why would people say he wanted to sell the Townsend share in Wonder & Pride if it bothers him the "best" two-year-old is in "Ashleigh's and Charlie's hands"? He owns the freaking horse also. Get a clue, people.
  • Samantha tells Tor about how the Townsend Acres operation works, and he remarks that she knows a lot about it. She only lives at the farm. It's like being surprised when you ask someone where the bathroom in their house is and they actually know. This is first proof that Tor is a giant asshole.
  • *gasp!* Brad is showing Pride to a prospective buyer! The new guy is wearing a tailored "topcoat" and is wearing a gold ring. Wow, expensive things! This man is obviously wealthy, Samantha figures. I am knocked over by Samantha's superior skills of deduction!
  • Apparently no one ever, ever visits the broodmare barn at Townsend Acres.
  • Ashleigh can "feel the tension" between her and Brad. No kidding, Ash. I've been feeling it for six books now.
  • "Brad was obnoxious and arrogant, and liked to tell all the stable hands how to do their jobs." I feel like I just stumbled onto Joanna Campbell's character profile of one Bradley H. Townsend. Thank you for reiterating Brad's flaws on page 127 of book number 6, Joanna. Kinda knew that stuff already, thanks!
  • Ian: "It's no secret that Brad and I don't get along..." Really? Because I haven't actually seen them go at it recently...or at ALL.
  • So, I feel compelled to point out, Mike's got a foal out of a Secretariat mare. Yay. And because of these bloodlines he will be godlike and...oh, wait. Is this foal Sierra? Never mind.
  • Charlie, Maddock, and Ian team up and insult Brad all at once. Go team! Brad fires Ian! Drama ensues!
  • Pride is like the equine equivalent of a mood ring. Honestly, how freaked out can a horse get over a groom change?
It all turns out well in the end, of course. Wonder's Pride runs in his first race, as per the usual Thoroughbred ending, wins and gets a blown kiss from Samantha. Everyone wins (including Brad, if you tilt the plot a little and squint) and all is well.

In the end, Wonder's Yearling is the first book where the stage begins to shift over to Whitebrook Farm, moving the Ashleigh vs. Brad rivalry to a Townsend Acres vs. Whitebrook Farm rivalry. Only, it's still all about Ashleigh and Brad, because really Mike is only lucky to acquire the horses he gets through Ashleigh and Brad has unlimited resources. So I guess you could say the rest of the series is really about Ashleigh and Brad's unresolved "tension" and how hilarious is that?


Anonymous said...

#1: Why is there an English saddle outside a (to be) racing Thoroughbred's stall? #2: Why is Sam holding said Thoroughbred BY ITS HEAD? #3: Could the authors/plot writers have picked a more rational plot than financial crisis that comes out of nowhere?

Anonymous said...

The one thing that bothered me about this book is the fact that they start these horses so early. I know they are on the verge of being two, but a yearling-and-a-half is far from being fit to ride. Maybe light exercise on the flat, but most certainly nothing with a rider yet. If people wonder why their horses have issues with back problems later on in life, it's because too many trainers start horses young when they're still developing most of their adult muscle and bone mass.

And if anyone disagrees, I'm sorry if I busted your bubble. Well, I'm not actually, I'm just being extremely honest. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

"The one thing that bothered me about this book is the fact that they start these horses so early"

-It's a book about horse racing. What do you expect? They start their horses early, it's not anything of the author's creation. If you don't like it, you should probably read a Dressage book or something.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Wonder win some of the biggest races there are? Surely she would be worth a ton? Especially since she's a mare, they typically don't win these races as much as stallions?

Anonymous said...

Mares win plenty of races...just not as many if they're racing AGAINST stallions. But there are plenty of mares and fillies-only races.