Read an Excerpt
Thoroughbred #60: Taking the Reins
By Joanna Campbell
Harper Collins PublishersCopyright © 2003 Joanna Campbell All right reserved. ISBN: 0060544406
From a distance, the racetrack at Belmont Park looked like a place in a fairy tale. The morning sunlight hit the racetrack's outer railings at such an angle that the white paint glowed. Within these railings, a dirt track stretched so far, it seemed that if the horses ran fast enough, they might be able to touch the sky. The surrounding ivy-covered buildings and tall, leafy trees complemented the track, giving it a dreamlike appearance.
Upon closer examination, though, the track lost its peaceful beauty. Socialite spectators, dressed in darkcolored business suits or pastel sundresses, crowded around the lawn. Bettors screamed into their cellular phones as they paced the grandstands and stuffed money under the betting windows. This chaos extended to the backside, where trainers, grooms, veterinarians, race stewards, and reporters milled around, inspecting horses and barking orders.
Christina Reese tried to ignore the commotion as she stood in front of Wonder's Star's stall and answered questions from the press. Two months earlier, such attention would have rattled her. But this day her responses came easily.
"Ms. Reese, what's next for Wonder's Star?"
Christina looked at her racehorse, admiring the chestnut colt's rippling muscles,straight legs, and elegant head. "Well, first of all, he's going home to Kentucky to get some well-deserved rest," she replied, rubbing the white whorl on Star's forehead. "After that, we'll probably bring him to Saratoga."
"Is the Travers Stakes a possibility?"
Christina nodded. She was planning to enter Star in the biggest race of the Saratoga meet. "But it's not definite. We want to keep our options open." Her parents, Mike Reese and Ashleigh Griffen, were standing at the front of the audience. They had warned her to keep her answers conservative.
"What about the Breeders' Cup Classic?"
Ashleigh stepped forward. "That's certainly on our minds, but we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves," she replied.
Christina's mind wandered as her mother discussed Star's summer and fall schedule, listing races such as the Jockey Club Gold Cup. She looked toward the racetrack, remembering the moment that had changed her life just days ago.
It's Wonder"s Star! Wonder"s Star wins the Belmont!
Finally, after being boxed in during the Kentucky Derby and bumped during the Preakness Stakes, Christina and Star had come back to win the last leg of the Triple Crown, the mile-and-a-half Belmont Stakes, by a length. Since Star's difficult birth, Christina had known he was special enough to win a Triple Crown race. The path certainly hadn't been easy, but now she and Star had finally shown the racing world what they were capable of.
Ashleigh touched Christina's shoulder. Blushing, Christina turned her attention back to the reporters. A woman in the back was asking a question.
"Christina, now that you have graduated from high school, what are your plans for the future?"
Christina suppressed a groan. Lately it seemed as though everyone was asking her that question. She still didn't have the answer. Back in February she had been accepted to the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Wanting to focus on Star, she had convinced her parents to let her defer admission for a year. Then, as the Triple Crown races drew closer, she had begun thinking about postponing college even longer to focus on her career as a jockey.
Lately, though, the people she respected had found reasons for her to give college more serious consideration. Cindy McLean, a close family friend who had been a successful jockey at Belmont before an injury forced her retirement, had insisted that a solid knowledge of business was necessary for any career with horses. Meanwhile, Christina's ex-boyfriend Parker Townsend had proven it was possible to work with horses while going to school. Finally, Star's groom, Dani Martens, had gotten Christina interested in the possibility of veterinary school.
"I'm not sure about my next step right now," Christina told the reporter. "All I know is that I will continue working with Star."
During the Triple Crown it had been hard for Christina to think about anything beyond the Belmont Stakes. The competition had been so intense that all she'd been able to focus on was Star's next race. But now Star was getting a break, and it was time to make it on her own as a jockey. She was planning to stay at Belmont for the rest of the meet, even though her parents and Star were leaving for Kentucky that evening. Ian McLean, the head trainer at Whitebrook, her parents' farm, would be supervising the farm's horses at Belmont. Ian had several promising horses for Christina to ride.
Christina answered a few more questions for the reporters, but that one reporter's question kept echoing in her head.
What did she want to do with her life? How much of her love for jockeying came from her love for Star and how much would remain if she was riding other horses? Were Cindy, Parker, and Dani right about college? Or should she wait until she was sure before she enrolled? In the meantime, what was the best way for her to spend the summer? There were so many questions, and Christina didn't have any answers.
As the crowd dissipated she left Star's stall and walked along the backside, wanting some time to think. The sound of a familiar voice calling her name interrupted Christina"s thoughts. Turning, she saw Patrick and Amanda Johnston walking toward her. In April Christina had taken Star to the Johnstons' Dreamflight Racing Farm in California so that she could race her colt in the Santa Anita Derby. She had heard from the famous West Coast trainers only a few times since then.
"Hi, Christina. How are you?" Amanda greeted her ...
Excerpted from Thoroughbred #60: Taking the Reins by Joanna Campbell
Copyright © 2003 by Joanna Campbell
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.