Thoroughbred is a series of young-adult novels that revolves around Kentucky Thoroughbred racing and equestrianism. The series was started in 1991 by Joanna Campbell, and numbered 72 books, in addition to several "super editions" and a spin-off series, Ashleigh, by the time it ended in 2005. The series focuses on a group of core characters, primarily Ashleigh Griffen, her husband Mike Reese, and her daughter Christina, as well as Christina's friends. The series originally followed the adventures of Ashleigh as she was growing up; when Ashleigh reached adulthood, the focus of the books then shifted to a teenaged Christina and her cousin Melanie.
The books, which are intended for a primarily pre-teen, female audience, explore the characters' adventures in horse racing, eventing, and steeplechase. Christina and Melanie, the two main characters, are both jockeys, and many of the books deal with their challenges on and off the track: while their life with their horses comprises the main storyline, school, boyfriends, and family life often provide subplots. The Reese family farm, Whitebrook, is the setting for most of the series.
Thoroughbred is published by HarperEntertainment, an imprint of HarperCollins. A total of twelve different authors have contributed to the series over the fifteen years of its existence. There are currently over two million Thoroughbred books in print.
Structure of the books
The Thoroughbred series is written in the third-person narrative and is typically told from a single person's viewpoint. For the first twenty-three books, the series is told from the viewpoints of Ashleigh Griffen (#1 - #5), Samantha McLean (#6 - #12), and Cindy McLean (#13 - #23). After book twenty-three, the series started what was called the "New Generation" and skipped ten years to a new group of characters: Christina Reese, Melanie Graham, Parker Townsend, and a small group of minor characters. These books were still written in the third-person, but the viewpoints of characters would alternate between books.
The early books
Early on, the series primarily focuses on Ashleigh Griffin and her adventures at Townsend Acres, a racing and breeding farm owned by Clay Townsend. Ashleigh's parents, Derek and Elaine Griffin, take over at the breeding area of Townsend Acres after their own farm, Edgardale, is put down because of a disease that spread around the farm and killed both mares and foals. Ashleigh dislikes her life at first, but becomes more accustomed to it after an older mare named Townsend Holly gives birth to a small filly who she names Wonder. Though Wonder is not meant to live, through Ashleigh's care, the filly grows up to be a Kentucky Derby-winning racehorse. After Ashleigh grows up, the plot is focused on Samantha McLean afterward.
The new generation
After book 23, Cindy's Honor, the series skipped forward ten years and began anew with a focus on eventing. The new series involved Ashleigh Griffen's daughter, Christina, who traded Wonder's latest foal, Wonder's Legacy, for a racehorse, named Sterling Dream, which she turned into an eventer. After 12 books, the series quickly shifted from eventing back to racing due to popular demand from fans.
After Ashleigh's Wonder's death, Christina became attached to Wonder's last foal, Wonder's Star. From this point, the series retained a predominantly Thoroughbred-racing focus, leaving eventing to Parker Townsend, who became a regular part of the series soon after Wonder's death. The series then became focused on Christina and Melanie and their horses Wonder's Star, Perfect Image, and Hi Jinx.
The last main character
Allie Avery, the final main character of Thoroughbred, was introduced at the very end of the series as the daughter of Craig and Jilly Avery; Craig and Jilly had been removed from the series early on, but were brought back to make the introduction of a new character possible. Allie was both interested in eventing and racing, bringing together the two disciplines in the Thoroughbred series, although she ultimately decided upon becoming a jockey. She is given Wonder's Legacy, the often-forgotten son of Ashleigh's Wonder, as a gift when she is fourteen.
By late 2005, the Thoroughbred series was officially ended. The last book of the series was Legacy's Gift, a book centered on Allie and Wonder's Legacy, as well as the birth of Legacy's daughter, Allie's Wonder. The end of the series was much-protested, despite the seeming decline in quality of plots and writing.
- A HORSE CALLED WONDER by Joanna Campbell
- WONDER'S PROMISE by Joanna Campbell
- WONDER'S FIRST RACE by Joanna Campbell
- WONDER'S VICTORY by joanna Campbell
- ASHLEIGH'S DREAM by Joanna Campbell
- WONDER'S YEARLING by Joanna Campbell
- SAMANTHA'S PRIDE by Joanna Campbell
- SIERRA'S STEEPLECHASE by Joanna Campbell
- PRIDE'S CHALLENGE by Joanna Campbell
- PRIDE'S LAST RACE by Joanna Campbell
- WONDER'S SISTER by Joanna Campbell
- SHINING'S ORPHAN by Joanna Campbell
- CINDY'S RUNAWAY COLT by Joanna Campbell
- CINDY'S GLORY by Joanna Campbell
- GLORY'S TRIUMPH by Karen Bentley
- GLORY IN DANGER by Karen Bentley
- ASHLEIGH'S FAREWELL by Karen Bentley
- GLORY'S RIVAL by Karen Bentley
- CINDY'S HEARTBREAK by Karen Bentley
- CHAMPION'S SPIRIT by Karen Bentley
- WONDER'S CHAMPION by Karen Bentley
- ARABIAN CHALLENGE by Karen Bentley
- CINDY'S HONOR by Karen Bentley
- THE HORSE OF HER DREAMS by Allison Estes
- MELANIE'S TREASURE by Allison Estes
- STERLING'S SECOND CHANCE by Allison Estes
- CHRISTINA'S COURAGE by Alice Leonhardt
- CAMP SADDLEBROOK by Dale Blackwell Gasque - Christina and Melanie attend Camp Saddlebrook where they make lots of friends, some enemies, and have the summer of their life.
- MELANIE'S LAST RIDE by Alice Leonhardt
- DYLAN'S CHOICE by Dale Blackwell Gasque
- A HOME FOR MELANIE by Alice Leonhardt - After spending the summer at Whitebrook, Melanie's father is getting married and wants her to come home, but she doesn't want to.
- CASSIDY'S SECRET by Allison Estes
- RACING PARKER by Dale Blackwell Gasque
- ON THE TRACK by Lois Symanski - Melanie starts excersise riding Thoroughbreds, and Christina is jealous of her growing bond with Ashleigh.
- DEAD HEAT by Alice Leonhardt
- WITHOUT WONDER by Brook James - Wonder dies giving birth to Star. Christina develops a bond with the colt, but Ashleigh doesn't want anything to do with him.
- STAR IN DANGER by Alice Leonhardt - Christina finds that after being sent to Townsend Acres, Star isn't as she remembered him.
- DOWN TO THE WIRE by Mary Newhall Anderson - Star has to win one of his first two races, or he'll go back to Townsend Acres forever.
- LIVING LEGEND by Alice Leonhardt
- ULTIMATE RISK by Mary Newhall Anderson
- CLOSE CALL by Karle Dickerson
- THE BAD LUCK FILLY by Alice Leonhardt
- FALLEN STAR by Mary Newhall Anderson - Star contracts a mysterious illness while at a racetrack in Florida.
- PERFECT IMAGE by Alice Leonhardt - Melanie has one week to get Image ready for her first race.
- STAR'S CHANCE by Alice Leonhardt - Christina has lost her connection with Star, so she goes to Montana to visit her friend, Lyssa Hynde.
- RACING IMAGE by Alice Leonhardt
- CINDY'S DESERT ADVENTURE by Mary Newhall Anderson
- CINDY'S BOLD START by Mary Newhall Anderson
- RISING STAR by Karle Dickerson - After recovering from an illness, Star is ready to race, but Christina's mother isn't convinced.
- TEAM PLAYER by Alice Leonhardt
- DISTANCE RUNNER by Jennifer Chu - Christina feels Star isn't ready for the Derby, so she takes him to California for a change of pace.
- PERFECT CHALLENGE by Alice Leonhardt
- DERBY FEVER by Mary Newhall Anderson - Tension is flying at Whitebrook Farm as the Kentucky Derby approaches.
- CINDY'S LAST HOPE by Mary Newhall Anderson
- GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Karle Dickerson
- HOOFPRINTS IN THE SNOW by Karle Dickerson - After Lyssa finds hoofprints near her Montana ranch, she goes through much trouble to find the mystery horse.
- FAITH IN A LONG SHOT by Alice Leonhardt - Melanie begins to have doubts about entering Image in the Derby.
- CHRISTINA'S SHINING STAR by Mary Newhall Anderson - After the disaster of the Derby, Christian tries to have faith in Star for the Preakness.
- STAR'S INSPIRATION by Mary Newhall Anderson - Star has one more chance to make history in the Belmont.
- TAKING THE REINS by Jennifer Chu - After a racehorse Christina is riding is injured, she thinks about pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.
- PARKER'S PASSION by Karle Dickerson
- UNBRIDLED FURY by Karle Dickerson - Melanie's new racehorse, High Jinx, is a bit of handful, to put it simply.
- STARSTRUCK by Mary Newhall Anderson - After Christina starts to receive strange presents from an unknown person, she fears for Star's safety.
- THE PRICE OF FAME by Mary Newhall Anderson - After moving Star to Townsend Acres to keep him safe, Christina fears Brad Townsend is up to no good.
- BRIDAL DREAMS by Mary Newhall Anderson - Samantha tells the tale of the unusual events leading up to her and Tor's wedding.
- SAMANTHA'S IRISH LUCK by Mary Newhall Anderson
- BREAKING THE FALL by Jennifer Chu - Christina suffers a serious racing injury and is forced to turn Star's training over to Melanie, with disastrous results.
- KAITLIN'S WILD RIDE by Karle Dickerson - After meeting a handsome young man named Connor, Kaitlin has to make a choice: her horse, Sterling, or the boy.
- MELANIE'S DOUBLE JINX by Mary Newhall Anderson - Melanie begins to have doubts about Jinx's training and fears Jazz will sell him and Image.
- ALLIE'S LEGACY by Mary Newhall Anderson
- CALAMITY JINX by Mary Newhall Anderson
- LEGACY'S GIFT by Mary Newhall Anderson
- ASHLEIGH'S CHRISTMAS MIRACLE by Joanna Campbell - After having multiple complications while giving birth, Ashleigh dreams what her daughter's life would be like if she died while being unconscious in the hospital.
- ASHLEIGH'S DIARY by Joanna Campbell - Describes the events leading up to Edgardale's downfall from a mysterious virus.
- ASHLEIGH'S HOPE by Karen Bentley
- SAMANTHA'S JOURNEY by Karen Bentley
The Ashleigh Series
- LIGHTNING'S LAST HOPE by Joanna Campbell - After Ashleigh and her best friend, Mona find a neglected horse in the woods, she goes to great measures to save her.
- A HORSE FOR CHRISTMAS by Joanna Campbell - The humane society finds a new home for Lightning, and Ashleigh tries to convince them that Lightning belongs with her.
- WAITING FOR STARDUST by Joanna Campbell and Mary Newhall Anderson - Ashleigh tries to connect with her new horse, Stardust.
- GOOD-BYE MIDNIGHT WANDERER by Olivia Coates
- THE FORBIDDEN STALLION by Chris Platt
- A DANGEROUS RIDE by Mary Newhall Anderson
- DERBY DAY by Chris Platt
- THE LOST FOAL by Chris Platt - Ashleigh's favourite filly, Shadow, goes missing, and she goes frantic trying to find her.
- HOLDIAY HOMECOMING by Chris Platt
- DERBY DREAMS by Chris Platt - Edgardale gets its very own racehorse, with unusual circumstances following.
- ASHLEIGH'S PROMISE by Chris Platt
- WINTER RACE CAMP by Chris Platt
- THE PRIZE by Chris Platt - Things get competitive when Ashleigh and Mona both try to win a prize saddle.
- ASHLEIGH'S WESTERN CHALLENGE by Chris Platt
- STARDUST'S FOAL by Chris Platt
Ashleigh's THOROUGHBRED Collection
- STAR OF SHADOWBROOK FARM by Joanna Campbell
- THE FORGOTTEN FILLY by Karle Dickerson - After Joelle's horse, Dance Away, dies giving birth to her first foal, Joelle wants nothing to do with the filly.
- BATTLECRY FOREVER! by Joanna Campbell
List of major characters
- Ashleigh Griffen, the jockey of Wonder in the Breeder's Cup Classic, a trainer at Whitebrook Farm, and eventually the owner of Whitebrook Farm. She marries Mike Reese in Thoroughbred No. 9, Pride's Challenge, and has a daughter, Christina.
- Clay Townsend, the owner of Townsend Acres when the series opened. He was much more kind to Ashleigh and the other characters than his son or daughter-in-law, although he turned a blind eye when it came to his son.
- 'Charlie Burke', a crusty old trainer with a soft spot for young people, who helped Ashleigh nurse Wonder back to health, train, and race her. He was also instrumental in getting Ashleigh's jockey career started. He died in the ninth book, "Pride's Challenge", from a heart attack on Ashleigh's wedding day.
- Samantha McLean, Ashleigh's close friend, the jockey of Sierra. She marries Tor Nelson. Later in the series, she runs an eventing school, Whisperwood, which is attended by Christina and Parker.
- Brad and Lavinia Townsend, the aristocratic owners of Townsend Acres, where Ashleigh once lived. They are the parents of Parker.
- Cindy Blake, or Cindy McLean, Samantha's adopted sister. She was a jockey until she tore her rotator cuff in an accident.
- Ian McLean, Head trainer and breeding manager at Whitebrook Farm. Cindy's adoptive father, married to Beth Raines, Cindy's adoptive mother.
- Beth Raines, Cindy's adoptive mother. She is a part owner of an aerobics company and is strict on meal times, eating healthily and bedtimes. She is married to Ian McLean, Cindy's adoptive father.
- Mandy Jarvis, Bold little girl who has leg braces. Owns a pony called Butterball and hopes to jump in the olympics.
- Christina Reese, Ashleigh's daughter, the jockey of Wonder's Star. Her boyfriend is Parker Townsend.
- Melanie Graham, Christina's cousin, also a jockey.
- Parker Townsend, Christina's boyfriend, the son of Brad and Lavinia. He competes in three-day-eventing.
- Allie Avery, the daughter of Jilly Gordon and Craig Avery. Cindy and Ben al-Rihani adopt her after her parents died.
Joanna Campbell created the first fourteen Thoroughbred books, as well as the first two books in the spin-off series, Ashleigh. After Campbell stopped writing, long-time editor Karen Bentley took over, writing books fifteen through twenty-three. After Karen Bentley left the series, there was a rotating "panel" of contributing authors: Allison Estes, Alice Leonhardt, Dale Blackwell Gasque, Lois Symanski, Mary Newhall Anderson, Karle Dickerson, and Jennifer Chu. Thoroughbred #36, Without Wonder, was written under the pen name "Brook James" by an unknown author.
Special editions, spin offs, and story arcs
The "super editions"
There have been four "super edition" Thoroughbred books. The events described in the super editions often take place during an interval between two of the regular books; for instance, Ashleigh's Christmas Miracle is supposedly set between books eighteen and nineteen of the regular series. The four super editions are:
- Ashleigh's Christmas Miracle, which deals with the events surrounding the birth of Christina.
- Ashleigh's Diary, which chronicles the events prior to Ashleigh's moving to Townsend Acres in A Horse Called Wonder
- Ashleigh's Hope, which precedes the events of the Ashleigh series
- Samantha's Journey, which follows Samantha's early life before she becomes acquainted with Ashleigh
The super editions sometimes present problems of continuity in the regular series. For example, it is stated in Ashleigh's Christmas Miracle during Ashleigh's dream that the son of Brad and Lavinia Townsend is named Ross. In book #16 of the regular series Brad and Lavinia's infant son is also named Ross, who disappears shortly after and returns during the New Generation with a different name all together (Parker Jamison Townsend). It is also suspected that the dream sequence of Ashleigh's Christmas Miracle influenced the series' plot lines, such as Christina's early interest in eventing.
Wonder's Legacy is a trilogy within the regular series itself, comprising books thirty-six through thirty-eight. The trilogy deals with the aftermath of the death of Wonder, Ashleigh's favorite racehorse, as well as Christina's decision to shift her focus from eventing to racing in order to become the jockey of Wonder's last colt, Wonder's Star. This has led to mixed criticism as some wanted Christina, whose preference for eventing was so clear that she often felt like an outsider, to stick with eventing. Others were pleased, but most agreed it was a too-sudden turnaround.
Cindy's Lost Diaries
Cindy's Desert Adventure and Cindy's Bold Start, volumes forty-seven and forty-eight, are two "lost diary specials" published within the regular series in an attempt to explain the missing characters and continuity problems created by the ten year gap which occurred between Cindy's Honor and the New Generation. These books detail how Ashleigh miscarried her second pregnancy, the fate of Wonder's Champion, and Cindy McLean's travels to the United Arab Emirates, New York City, and finally back to Whitebrook Farm.
Similar to the "lost diary specials", Samantha also had a two book special, volumes sixty-five and sixty-six, published within the regular series. These books, Bridal Dreams and Samantha's Irish Luck are not distinguished with a separate title indicating their "special" status within the series, but are generally regarded as such and were included within the regular series also in attempts to explain Samantha's story during the ten year gap created by the New Generation. The books detail Samantha's marriage to Tor and their subsequent relocation to Ireland, Samantha's shifting focus from horse racing to eventing and show jumping, and the birth of Samantha and Tor's children.
The spin-off series, Ashleigh, is set in a "time bubble" just prior to Ashleigh's moving to Townsend Acres after a virus destroys her family's stock of broodmares. The main setting for the series is the Griffen family farm, Edgardale. The books follow the adventures an eleven-year-old Ashleigh and her best friend, Mona Gardener.
This spin-off presents inconsistencies. In #2 Wonder's Promise (canon series), Ashleigh states she's never attended a live horse race before; however, in the 'Ashleigh' series (and Ashleigh's Diary, the Super Edition), she attends several races. This leads to the other error/inconsistency. In #7, Derby Day, ('Ashleigh' series), it is said that Rhoda Kat is the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. However, in the canon series, Jilly Gordon clearly is. When the plague hits Ashleigh's family, Various horses who survive or are sold before the first book, die (Midnight Wanderer, for example, who is put to sleep in the book, 'Goodbye Midnight Wanderer', apparently dies of the mysterious plague,rather than from the accident.)
Ashleigh's Thoroughbred Collection
In 1998 HarperCollins republished three books as part of the Ashleigh's Thoroughbred Collection, books that were similar to Thoroughbred and were also written by authors of the series. Of the three books published in this collection, only characters in Battlecry Forever! have been referenced in the regular Thoroughbred series.
Star of Shadowbrook Farm
Written by Joanna Campbell, Star of Shadowbrook Farm was first published in 1992 by HarperEntertainment, and again in 1998 as part of Ashleigh's Thoroughbred Collection. It is the story of two unlikely eventing champions, Susan Holmes and Evening Star. The characters and storyline do not connect with the Thoroughbred series.
The Forgotten Filly
Written by Karle Dickerson, The Forgotten Filly was published in 1993 by HarperTorch, and republished in 1998 as part of Ashleigh's Thoroughbred Collection. The characters and storyline do not connect with the Thoroughbred series.
Written by Joanna Campbell, Battlecry Forever! was first published in 1992 by HarperEntertainment, and again in 1998 as part of Ashleigh's Thoroughbred Collection. The story concerns Battlecry, an unruly black stallion, and Leslie D'Andrea, who sets out to try to turn him into a champion. Battlecry is the sire of Fleet Goddess, a filly that Ashleigh Griffen purchases in the Thoroughbred series. It is the only book written outside of the Thoroughbred series that is considered canon. This book is available in the international PONY book club where you can purchase this book at their online book store at www.pony4kids.com
- Whitebrook Farm, a Thoroughbred fansite