by Allison Estes
Man, this book is something else. Really, I had no idea all those horrible, completely absurd fan fics over at whitebrookfarm.com actually could be considered based on canon. How wrong I was.
God, I was so right. The most we see of snow in Cassidy's Secret is a really mundane conversation about how it might be a mild winter considering they're currently experiencing an Indian summer. Where this snowy cover comes from...anyone's guess. Actually, I don't understand how this cover applies to anything in the book at all. The girl...clearly Cassidy. The guy...who knows? The horses? Who knows. The western saddles? Who knows? It's essentially one big what the hell?
Will Cassidy tell the truth, even if it means losing her horse?
Cassidy Smith is worried. Her filly, Lady T, is running against a champion racehorse, Pizzazz. Cassidy's family needs the prize money desperately. Without it, they can't afford to keep Lady T.
Then Cassidy discovers that Pizzazz has been injured -- and his owner is planning to run him anyway. If Pizzazz runs on his bad leg, he could be ruined forever! Cassidy knows she should tell her dad to stop the race. But then the Smith's won't win the money they need -- and they'll have to sell Lady T for sure. How can Cassidy protect Pizzazz without losing her beloved filly?
Wow, where do I begin? I have so many questions, first of all. Like, the editors are now forcing racing back into the fold, but instead of taking the obvious path with Melanie they decide to shuffle off this task onto Cassidy. What kind of crazy sense does that make? On top of that, who the hell really cares about Cassidy? I certainly don't care. That said, Cassidy's got a lot of issues. Let me show you them.
So, Cassidy is all with the inner turmoil over having to tell her friends this, especially when she has to add on the fact that her parents are now in a financial crisis. Hey, you know, perhaps they shouldn't have moved from Miami in the first place. You know? But this is further improbable considering they own this Lady T horse and he was a wildly successful trainer, so six months shouldn't matter unless they are the stupidest people on earth. Apparently they are extremely stupid, and they also moved on top of it. So they're stupid.
Anyway, Cassidy tells everyone that Lady T is running in the Ruffian Handicap and she wants to see the race live, so they all go to Whitebrook to watch the race. Lady T wins, but the purse is so teeny tiny it doesn't mean much (like, what?). Ashleigh takes some time out to tell them all this absolutely ridiculous story about when she and Brad went to Gulfstream together. (I am envisioning so many fan fic plots for this already that I will tell you now my mind went a little wild...it was good times.) Apparently he only got stalls for his horses, because he likes to see Ashleigh suffer and cry, and so Ashleigh cried and felt sorry for herself until Cassidy's dad showed up and let her use some of his stalls. Seriously, Ashleigh, grow a backbone already. All she had to do was go throw her weight around with admin...it's not like they would have refused her space, for Christ's sake. So, anyway, thus we are reminded how awesome Brad is and I guess Cassidy's dad is great because he's another one of those types that helps without being asked. God, they are so annoying. Then Ashleigh up and goes to the barn for a second...ooh, mysterious. She comes back after Cassidy tells everyone her sob story about how she's really poor and no one really believes her. That's good because I don't either. She's got two classy eventers, competes in these high class shows, and she's not rich? Then Ashleigh comes back with the sudden information that Lady T is coming to Whitebrook (yeah, no kidding) and so is Pizzazz (some other apparently important horse) and they're going to have a match race at Keeneland!
SO. Lady T and Pizzazz are at Whitebrook and Cassidy is all super obsessed with this. Also, apparently Lady T needs her very own armed PI/security official at all times. And I guess so does Pizzazz. I don't know where Allison gets this, but all of a sudden everyone's walking around with guns, and I appreciate this plot point just because it's so damn funny. Charlie is the guy that's guarding Lady T, and he strikes up some conversation with the kids and I guess this means he's the good guy. Pizzazz's owners are then, of course, bad guys. You know this immediately once the guns are brought into it. As it happens, Cassidy sees Pizzazz stumble in a work and after about an eternity of wondering why he stumbled (Cassidy, horses stumble every day...get over it) she starts sneaking around the barns and hears the horse's owners try to talk a vet into drugging the horse so he can run. The vet refuses. Cassidy is suspicious. Cassidy is suspicious some more. She enlists Christina and Melanie to help her figure out how to prove that Pizzazz is on something, and this results in some hilarity involving Cassidy sneaking into the horse's stall to poke at his legs. I am really not kidding. She discovers that Pizzazz's right knee is more or less dead to the world and decides to ring the alarm bells.
Only no one really cares besides Cassidy. So she eventually remembers the license plate of the vet who refused to treat Pizzazz (DRSFINE...yeah, I thought that was hilarious at first, too) and winds up calling information and actually gets this guy on the phone. He tells her Pizzazz has a bone chip and ohmigod he could die if he runs again. Or be seriously injured. Or something. Shocked and appalled, Cassidy tells her dad and he doesn't care. In fact, he wants to continue with the race because win or lose he'll still win upwards of 100 grand. Actually, he bribes her to keep quiet about it. I loved that part. Essentially: shut up or you'll lose your horses. Ha ha! Nice.
So the day of the race comes along and Cassidy, Melanie and Christina haunt the backside. They visit Pizzazz and see that he's being checked by the vet, who gives them an okay to run. But, like, how? He is totally not okay! (Like they x-ray horses before every race or something. Seriously, Cassidy, you can't tell a horse has a bone chip just by casually looking at it.) So they're wandering around and they see a groom lead Pizzazz into a trailer...and then out of it again. But, like, why? (This is all happening in the middle of the day on the backside during races, I might add.) So they start checking out the trailer and of course the evil groom catches them and pulls a gun on them and forces them inside the trailer. So, the stupidity is coming along at a rapid pace here. I guess the groom decides to lock them in the trailer and leave them there, like that won't come back and bite him on the ass or anything. Christina and Cassidy eventually shove Melanie through the skylight and she runs off for help. Charlie, the good guy with the gun, comes along and I guess he shoots the lock off and they run to take the ringer to the paddock so everyone can see that Pizzazz shouldn't run because like parading a horse that looks just like him will somehow communicate this effectively without having to say anything? Well, whatever. Charlie escorts them to the paddock, but then the evil groom and his evil friend come along and Charlie pulls his gun out and the evil groom guy goes for his gun and ohmigod Christina saves the day by throwing herself at the evil guy with the gun so Cassidy can further save the day by dragging the ringer to the paddock where everyone collectively gasps and seems to realize immediately what has happened.
Then we're treated to this movie moment between Cassidy and her dad. Reporters cluster around them, but neither speak, the situation too pressing and heavy for words, apparently, as two perfect tears drip from Cassidy's perfect eyes. Her dad continues to not speak. The movie music swells and then he says, "There will be no match race. You did the right thing, Cassidy." And then they walk off into the sunset. Cassidy has, I guess, lost everything and her family is screwed, but Pizzazz is safe because she did the Right Thing.
- You know what annoys me? When people have more than one child and then grace them with names starting with the same letter. Cassidy has two brothers: Carter and Campbell. It's like their mother always wanted a set of living dolls when she grew up.
- We've got some changes to report: Cassidy's horse, Wellington, went from gray to chestnut, and Ashleigh's hair suddenly became curly. I'm having flashbacks of the poodle hair Caroline inflicted upon her back during Wonder's Promise. Those weren't good times.
- Brad is mentioned specifically for the first time in ages. I don't even care that his name is brought up in the midst of some completely random and totally incomprehensible story Ashleigh's telling Cassidy about her stupid father...Brad is mentioned! And he's busy being a self-centered jerk in Ashleigh's memories. Oh, sweet, sweet memories.
- Also, you know: That was back in the days when I was still in business with Clay Townsend and his son, Brad. You know, considering Ashleigh (probably? probably definitely) still owns Wonder's Pride, Townsend Princess, Honor Bright, and Mr. Wonderful plus whatever other foals Princess and Honor have produced I think that sorta kinda almost definitely means she's still in business with them. Not to even mention Wonder is still alive at this point and still needs to give us Star in all his ethereal light.
- Cassidy's stupid horse, Lady T, runs in the Ruffian Handicap. Now, I'm not going to waste my time figuring out the purse of this race in 1999, but today it's a Grade I race with a purse of $300,000. What does Allison Estes want us to believe? That it's a $20,000 race, and at most Cassidy's dad, as the horse's owner, will see about $5,000 of that money. Like I said, I don't know what was going on in 1999, but considering the race has been around since 1976 I am DAMN SURE it wasn't being run at $20,000 only nine years ago. Clearly Allison has no clue when it comes down to the money involved in Grade I races, especially considering she just made this big deal over Lady T winning the Filly Triple Crown. No clue at all. Just sayin'.
- You know...it's not the 1930s anymore. The last match race was in 2003 and it was a battle of the sexes between jockeys, so I find this whole reconstructing the Ruffian/Foolish Pleasure disaster of 1975 both in poor taste and remarkably dated.
- What is a guy with a gun doing at Whitebrook? Really.
- Apparently they are driving this Pizzazz horse from California to Whitebrook? Has the trainer of the biggest horse on the West Coast not heard of air travel?
- Exactly how long has Pizzazz been running around with a bone chip? Shouldn't this have been removed months before now?
- Wow, is everyone carrying concealed weapons in Thoroughbred these days?
- "Now what makes you think you can order me around?" Jerry said, one hand behind his back. "This," Charlie said drawing his gun. Okay, this is good, but just wait...
- Charlie stepped back just as Jerry lunged for him. But to Cassidy's surprise, Christina jumped forward and tackled Jerry. That's right, guys, Christina just tackled a man armed with a gun to the ground. Didn't see that coming, did you?