by Joanna Campbell
Original Publication: 1991
I'm convinced this book should have been called Ashleigh's Rivalry or Brad and Ashleigh Make Lustful Angry Eyes at Each Other or something better than Wonder's First Race. Because it's not about Wonder's first race at all.
Here's the cover:
This is another one of my favorites, despite Wonder looking like a broodmare or basic lesson horse. She certainly doesn't look like a three-year-old Thoroughbred in training, but it's not important. The scene is nice and it's straight out of the book (Ashleigh grooms Wonder! Yeah, we've been there, done that). What's not to love?
Is Wonder's racing career over before it begins?
Against all odds, Ashleigh Griffen's favorite racehorse, Wonder, has come through training with flying colors. Now Ashleigh and Wonder's trainer, Charlie, are putting everything they have into getting Wonder ready for the biggest race of her career: The Kentucky Derby. Then disaster strikes.
Brad Townsend, the son of Wonder's owner, insists on working Wonder one icy winter day. As Ashleigh and Charlie watch in horror, Brad gallops Wonder too fast, and the filly stumbles on the frozen track, badly injuring her shoulder.
After two years of hard work, have Wonder's chances been ruined in a split second?
Again, the summary pulls out a rather small scenario in the broader picture. The plot, you may ask? It's essentially racing Wonder. She's showing some promise (despite people going from "she sucks!" to "she can't handle the distance!" to "wow, she's amazing!"), and for some illogical reason the farm decides to pit her against Townsend Prince (Brad's horse, of course) and run them both in the Kentucky Derby although I can't really rationalize why Wonder is in the race in the first place. Nevertheless, she's there and do they win? Well, come on now. Put your thinking caps on.
The secondary plot:
Brad! Again! And in a major way. Brad and Ashleigh hate each other. Check. Brad's horse and Ashleigh's horse race against each other. Check. Brad breaks up with Caroline and must be scolded by Ashleigh. Check. The two claw at each other in a ravenous fight for supremacy before falling to the ground and ripping at hair and clothes before, suddenly, succumbing to urges neither knew they...um. Forget that part. In any case, you get the idea. They hate each other. And they happen to take out their frustrations through racing their horses in the same races. Sure, if that's how they want to deal with that tension, fine by me. Whatever.
- Apparently now that Wonder has somewhat proven herself in training everyone who previously thought she was a nag is still working under the assumption that she's still a nag and have plenty of venomous, out-of-no-where comments to share. Oh, petty jealousy!
- I've never thought that "overexcitement or listlessness" could indicate a horse would win a race. Here I thought the two were more or less unfavorable pre-race behaviors. Silly me.
- And Wonder wins her first race! We totally didn't see that happening at all. Of course not.
- I can't figure out why Ashleigh is digging under her pillow for her pajamas. Who keeps their pajamas under their pillows? Let's see a raise of hands.
- Everyone is all excited about Pimlico when they were at Churchill Downs in the first chapter and no one batted an eye. What's so great about Pimlico? The seediness?
- Gyro has got to be the worst name for a horse...ever.
- Brad in a white suit, eh? Okay, at first I thought this was another horrible fashion moment brought to us by the early 90s, but then I had to go here. "A man in white is often searching for something: dirt, or life, or love, money or blood, fame or notoriety. A white suit attracts what you don't have or what you want more of." And, honestly? If that's what a white suit suggests, then a white suit couldn't be more Brad. I love it now.
- Oh, that Brad. Always speaking in low tones in a girl's "diamond-studded" ears. With that white suit on he's getting all flirty with women who aren't Caroline. Damn his arrogant handsomeness.
- Brad breaks up with Caroline on the phone. *gasp!* Then he has the nerve to reiterate his statement to her in person in front of a group of grooms! *double gasp!* You know, what I can't figure is why he's having some in depth conversation with the grooms in the first place. Shouldn't this have happened in front of the entire training track or something? That would have been more *gasp!* worthy.
- I find myself wondering why someone in the stands has to yell, "now!" and the jockey they were trying to, I don't know, yell at over several yards of crowds just happens to respond and begins the stretch drive to the finish line.
- Caroline is one fast rebounder, if not a little bipolar.
- Jennifer is such a whore. Really.
- Ah, Mike has entered the fray. At sixteen, he and his friend are training racehorses. What is wrong with this picture?
- Do they ever name this mysterious Townsend Prince half-brother of Mike's?
- Ashleigh is so clueless. A boy likes her and she's all "but we were just talking horses!" Such sweet innocence.
- Aw, arrogantly handsome Brad is relieved Wonder did well! Sure, so he can feel less guilty, but...okay, yeah, I'm still infatuated.
- Everyone keeps saying how tall or short or whatever a horse is and they follow it up by "but that doesn't mean anything." If it doesn't mean anything, why are they mentioning it?
- "The suit looks great! It makes you look older...or something." Okay, Linda, what else would the suit make Ashleigh look like? A tramp? A man? A what, exactly?
- What on earth are Gyro and Break the Bank doing in the Kentucky Derby? Isn't it a little coincidental that these two horses that beat Wonder in some nondescript allowance race are in the Derby also?
- Oh, another piercing whinny of joy to end the book. Fantastic stuff.