May 30, 2008

Derby Fever (Rhoda hasn’t Got it!) - Ashleigh #7: Derby Day

Derby Day – Ashleigh #7
Created by Joanna Cambell
Written by Chris Platt
First Printing: November 1999

Ugh, here it is – the saccharine sappiness of Aladdin’s Derby. It’s just so sappy; obviously he’s not going to lose the freaking race, but oh no, we’ve got to throw more obstacles in his path and muck him up even more in the process. After all, god forbid any of Ashleigh’s Special Horses™ have a smooth and easy route to the Triple Crown. That said, I am glad that Chris Platt’s at the helm of this book. She seems to be pretty grounded in the reality of the racing world so to speak, and usually keeps things sane.

The Cover:

It’s hideous. The pinks and purples make me want to puke at the glaring florescence of it. Aladdin looks like a backyard pony with a too long unpulled unruly mane; and I grow continually more convinced that when the Edgardale mares go to other breeding farms, the frikkin teaser stallion jumps the fence and knocks ‘em up (and the other farm owners laugh all the way to the bank: “Hey Frank, that mare from that rinky dink breeding farm just got jumped by the teaser, what’cha say we let it go, and tell them our real stallion did the job. They’ll never know, hahahaha!”) Aladdin looks more like an Appaloosa trail horse than he does a racehorse with that weird pink mottled muzzle, and the mottling around his eyes. Ashleigh looks to be wearing a very unflattering salmon-pink sundress (oh barf) or else she’s committed the grave sin of wearing a hideously bright t-shirt in the winner’s circle of the nation’s biggest race. Also, Aladdin’s bit looks far to large for his mouth, and Ashleigh looks far too tall considering that Aladdin is “almost 17 hands tall” – so either she’s Andre the Giant, or Aladdin isn’t an inch over 15 hands in that picture.

(Note bene: The only picture I could find of the cover is pretty washed out and faded, the actual one is really much more florescent and eye-blinding)

Ye Olde Summary:

Gag! That said, the back cover blurb is pretty much dead on, if rather stupid. I think the less said on this, the better. So I’ll stop here before I start frothing at the mouth (rabid dog, rabid dog!)

The Big Picture Plot:

1) Aladdin’s Treasure: Apparently being sired by a fairly prestigious stallion, and owned by wealthy privileged folk, he’s still viewed as a jumped-up upstart who’s “got no place racing with these upper-class horses.” He was supposed to run dead-last in the Blue Grass considering his past performances, so everyone not connected to him throws a shitfit when he does win. So then during a “Breakfast with the Works” morning gallop, he gets body-slammed by a two-year-old brother of the mean-tempered Derby favorite, Star Gazer. Naturally, this involves him throwing his jockey, and bolts into the machine yard, thereby giving Ashleigh a heart attack that they’d have to put him down. Which of course brings us to …

2) Aladdin can’t settle down! OH NOES!!!! So once again, as soon as Ashleigh the Wondergirl extracts the colt from the machine yard, he’s off to Paradise Edgardale for some peace and quiet. Except he doesn't settle down there either. He still acts a little spooky, and a little jumpy, and freaks his jockey out, and once on a trail ride, he tosses her off -- and then she's forced to bail a second time. Of course, Ashleigh manages to sneak a little ride on him (again!) and finds out he's actually behaving perfectly, and she guesses it's his jockey being nervous which sets him off, and that means...

3) It's all Rhoda Kat's fault! Seriously, I know why... it's her name for christ's sake. Rhoda Kat. Sounds like some cheap 80-1 claimer at Emerald Downs. Hell, I'd be nervous and freaked out too if I was imagining myself in the post parade of the nation's most important horse race and heard my stupid name being called over the loudspeaker. Anyway, Rhoda's got this exclusive contract with the Danworths to ride Aladdin in the Derby, but after she gets thrown, and Aladdin acts up, she has her confidence shaken. So of course, it's up to Ashleigh to get her back in the saddle and confident by ...

4) jumping "Jessica's Jump" which is apparently some made up backstory about some girl who tried jumping a horse over a 10-foot gully and ended up in the hospital. So Ashleigh writes a note to Rhoda saying she's going to go jump the gully, conveniently leaves Aladdin's saddle and bridle in very plain sight in front of his stall in which the horse himself is penned up (yeah, doesn't it just scream set-up?) and gets ready to do the deed, but lo and behold, Rhoda arrives in the nick of time (as if Ashleigh really had the cajones to jump the thing anyway) and rides Aladdin real good. So she's not scared anymore. And so they ride in the Derby. Yay!

Points of Interesting Useless (or not so useless) Facts:
  • OK, Chris sorta has it wrong here, since she says the horse has to be nominated to the Derby when it's young (there's the whole issue of supplemental fees, but technically, it's cheaper to nominate horses early on) but y'know, props to her about horses running well and/or winning in the Derby preps. It's a breath of realism in a fantasy world. Sure, you're always gonna see owners who throw a no-chance horse in, but realistically, when they do well in the preps, it's just more evident to run them after all.
  • Aladdin's run 7 times as a 3-year-old. Then the Blue Grass and Derby make races #8 and #9. Holy cow, compared to today's modern Thoroughbred, he's a machine.
  • Y'know, I'm really happy to read how the Wortons have a 6-furlong training track where Aladdin works. It's cool, see. Way better than some giant one-mile track. I've seen aerial footage of Churchill Downs, and it really makes you realize how big the freaking track is. For any Thoroughbred farm (no matter how prestigious) to have a track of that size, they'd have to have a shitload of land.
  • And Caro's gift for Ashleigh's birthday was a peach-colored sundress. That means that the hideous garment Ashleigh is wearing on the cover is a dress. Ugh. It's awful.
  • Rhoda comes to stay at Edgardale between the Blue Grass and the Derby. She and Ashleigh go for a ride. Rhoda rides Stardust, and Ashleigh actually rides Moe again. So much for being too "big" for him. Suddenly he has value to her again because he's the only other ridable critter on the place.
  • Aladdin runs in the 125th Derby. And gets Gate 8 in a 16 horse field with fairly high odds. Gosh, Derby 125 brings back memories. Come to think of it, that was Charismatic's year, and he went off at high odds too.

And Aladdin wins the Derby. As if he'd lose, judging by the cover. Puh-leeze! So that's over and done with, thank you very much. I need brain bleach or something. And I think I'll try and review another non-Ashleigh series book right now to recover from the torment of Derby Day. I dug around in one of the cardboard boxes that my horse books are temporarily being stored in, and think I found a nice old one that should do nicely.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hated the 'Ashleigh' series because it rewrote the canon, Ash never 'had' a Derby horse and never went to a live track, which was a pivot point in her life. Jilly was the first female jock to win the Derby (in Fictionland), not Rhoda, and Ashleigh never did anything except ride normally. No jumping.

But by itself, the book was fairly realistic and I actually liked the cover. *hide*