by Karen Bentley
Original Publication: 1997
Three things we know for sure from this cover:
1. Champion wins the Belmont Stakes, and apparently no one was there to witness it besides Ashleigh and Cindy.
2. Cindy cannot dress herself. Pink shirt, green pants...what exactly was she preparing herself for? She's at the Belmont Stakes and apparently it was laundry day.
3. After all of that scowling and shrieking I'm guessing that Cindy's forgotten how to smile. I assume the look on her face is supposed to be joy, but if you stare at it long enough she begins to look pissed off. That's not a smile on her face...that's Cindy's attempt to not bitchslap anyone.
Also, Champion looks bored to within an inch of his life, Cindy has no right arm, and I love how Ashleigh's carrying that giant trophy around like it weighs next to nothing. No wonder Cindy looks up to Ashleigh so much. She's got a rowdy racehorse in one hand and a trophy as big as her torso in the other and she doesn't even realize how amazing the feat is. Surely we should look up to her also.
The moment Cindy has waited her whole life for...
Cindy McLean's colt, Wonder's Champion, is facing the three most challenging races of his career. To win the Triple Crown, he has to sweep not only the Kentucky Derby but the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes as well.
Cindy has trained Wonder's Champion to become Whitebrook's greatest runner yet. But her work is far from over. Illness and injuries threaten to ruin her colt's chances of winning. And now it's up to Cindy to prove to everyone that her colt is truly a winner.
This is such a piss poor attempt at blurb writing. Really. Or perhaps that really is the plot in a nutshell, which would basically be: Champion will win! Only he keeps getting sick/injured! Damn it! But he wins anyway!
So, here we are at the beginning of Champion's three-year-old campaign. He races in some Kentucky Derby preps, winning the Fountain of Youth before coming in second in the Florida Derby. This causes everyone to really look at his whole issue with going after horses during a race, and Cindy comes up with the solution. He must formally greet every horse and person he comes across. First impressions, after all, are everything. Everyone pretty much thinks that's the stupidest idea they've ever heard (much to my relief), but Cindy is adamant that they try out her theory on Freedom's Ring. Naturally her theory works, and it works so well they don't have to formally introduce him to any other horses. Champion is cured!
So he goes on to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, although he's injured after the Preakness -- a superficial, most likely self-inflicted cut on his heel. Yes, this is the great and horrendous injury/illness that was spoken of on the back of the book. Although all of a sudden they run him in the Belmont Stakes anyway, and he wins, so like that was a big deal. Thus Whitebrook Farm has its first Triple Crown winner! Yay! Blue, white and brown streamers for everyone!
There's also a little subplot about Mandy being irritating. She wants another horse! A bigger one! A thoroughbred! But she doesn't want to sell Butterball! Good God, what is a rich, snotty child to do!? And Max kisses Cindy in front of many people, who seem to forget about it immediately afterward.
- Cindy, Beth, and Samantha help prepare the house for the New Year's Eve party and Samantha takes it upon herself to buff the floors. I'm a little curious about this, considering buffing hard wood floors is like a day project. Not a quick tidy-up-the-house project.
- "Like Cindy, Heather rode whenever possible, although Heather didn't have her own horse." As if Cindy does?
- Oh right. Cindy informs us that Ashleigh takes into consideration each horse's needs and assigns them riders. Cindy essentially hopes she'll ride Honor. Uh-huh.
- Tor arrived late to the party after he "finished caring for the horses in his jumping stable." I will say this for Bentley: she writes Tor out of the story most of the time, and if he's around she always throws in a "he's just so busy" line in there somewhere. It makes for high entertainment on my end.
- How Glory's Joy is just fine despite being a month early never fails to confuse me.
- You're going to be Glory's Joy -- and mine too. I'm convinced that Joy would have been officially Cindy's had Bentley kept going with the series. She would have been 18 when Joy was three, so it falls into place perfectly.
- Cindy's offering up a ride on a Whitebrook horse as a raffle prize at their upcoming school dance. I love how she just randomly makes these decisions without really informing anyone who actually owns the horses she's offering.
- Cindy mentions that Pride's first foals haven't done well on the track, but then they're only two-year-olds. Okay, you know what? It's freaking JANUARY. No kidding they haven't done well. They haven't raced yet.
- Cindy's an alternative music fan. I find this both odd and yet fitting.
- Max kisses Cindy! Let's all be mortified now! Although, honestly I'd be pretty damn embarrassed. It works out like this: Cindy and Max and friends get into Beth's car at the end of the dance. Presumably Beth drives them home. However apparently they go to Whitebrook to drop Cindy off first because before we know it Cindy and Max are at the front steps of her house, with the whole car full of friends in the driveway. Max leans down to make a snowball, but abruptly abandons that idea and decides to kiss Cindy instead. With a whole car of kids and Beth watching. I think Bentley meant to say that Max's mom was bringing them home, because as it is I have no idea what the hell was going on.
- Yay. More brunch.
- About the incident with Far Sailor: Mandy's such a manipulative bitch. Frankly, she's far worse than Cindy.
- It seems that every book Samantha has to remind us that she was born in Florida. That's great, Sammy. Really very interesting. No one cares.
- Cindy tells Chelsea that she "didn't have a horse either" at Chelsea's age. Perhaps Cindy's hallucinating because she still doesn't have one.
- I feel that Bentley should have come up with some synonyms for "exquisite" by now. Instead she's using the same word twice in one page. That's exquisite torture.
- There's some weird jostling at the end of the Florida Derby, and Champion comes in second. Again we're met with grim faces all around. Cindy's over there berating herself for thinking Champion would win all the time, and Ashleigh announces that Champion's pattern of bad racing manners is back. After one race. Since when is once a pattern?
- Again we're back to the "he's hypersensitive to everything" crap. This time Cindy worries that Champion may not want to win and Ashleigh comes up with the following: "we do want him to win, and so he's trying to intimidate the other horses." Yes! That must be it! It's something that couldn't possibly be corrected with gelding, of course.
- The poor kitten that Cindy adopted had a cute name for a moment (Kitcat), but the instant it associated well with Champion it's name changed to Best Pal. Who the hell names a cat Best Pal?
- Oh, no. Cindy has her moment of enlightenment! If she shows Champion that it's okay to like other people and animals, if she introduces him to them properly, he'll like them! It's like...the best plan ever! Yay! Let's skip off and get Vic so we can introduce him to Champion and see if he won't get kicked in the head!
- To Ian's credit, he starts laughing when Cindy tells him that Champion made a new friend. I can just imagine the daggers shooting from her eyes in response.
- Cindy tells Ashleigh she'll go slow implementing her plan. She'll start right now! Someone has got to teach this kid patience.
- I have suddenly started to wonder what Cindy's going to do in order to convince Champion that Vic is an okay guy. What's she going to do, rub herself all over him? For some reason I have it in my head that the only way this can possibly end is with someone screaming statutory rape.
- Ah, instead she just rubs herself all over Freedom. And we wisely skipped over the part with Vic. This is disappointing because I'm sure that was hilarious.
- God, Bentley gets the post position draw for the Kentucky Derby so wrong it pains me.
- Ian yells during the Derby that Sky Beauty hasn't been tested at a mile and a quarter. That would be because none of the horses have been tested at a mile and a quarter.
- In the winner's circle Cindy spots the reporter who was all critical of Champion. She snidely told him that she thought Champion would win the Kentucky Derby in response to his critical remarks after a race when Champion was two. Naturally she takes the time to be smug about this.
- The end of the year dance is all about Cindy. Of course it is.
- I suppose Karen has forgotten that Wonder won the Belmont, considering Cindy's remark on how a filly hasn't won it in over a century.
- Now Limitless Time is black instead of bay. I can overlook this because Limitless beats the crap out of Champion in their work. Ah, sweet justice.
- I have news for Cindy. The post position in a mile and a half race doesn't matter.
- The way Bentley writes the Belmont, there's no way Champion would have won the race going away. He would have been hard pressed to even win it when he's using himself up in the backstretch.
- Reporters ask Ashleigh if they're going to run Champion in the Dubai World Cup next year. I honestly don't think any reporter would ever ask that after a successful Triple Crown attempt when they're still in the winner's circle.
So, now that we're done with our fictional Triple Crown trail...who wants Big Brown to win the Belmont?