Jasmine “Jay” Barton longs to work with horses at a racetrack. She visits all of the yards in the racetrack to request a job. At the last barn, the wife of trainer, Mr. Wilkinson, summons her to speak with him. The trainer reluctantly agrees to giver her a job as a “lad.” The lads act as grooms, cleaning the stable, horses and tack. Her training consists of instructions to do as she is told, not ask questions, and remain quiet. The horses come first, or so they say.
The teen has a front-row seat to the ugly underbelly of the horse world. She gets paid little, and her rent is deducted from her paycheck. She is assigned to work in the back yard with the second string horses, which is much less snazzy than the stable filled with prize equines. The girl observes one of the workers threaten a horse with a pitchfork and the remnants of evidence that his abuse has left behind. She sees a neglected horse left in a bullpen with a solemn, disconsolate look in her eye. Then, Jay is caught between a nasty colleague and a terrified horse when someone plays a trick on her.
The girl’s home life was troubled, which led her to the job with horses. Jay loves the majesty of horses, and all of these magical qualities are personified in Manhattan. The mare is a big, grey Thoroughbred who has shown promise on the track, but then turned sour. Her unfriendly attitude has led to her disuse. She dislikes men in particular, and no one approaches her without fear of injury. However, Jay takes a shine to her. The troubled teen sees through the equine’s bravado. She acknowledges the fact that the horse despises people simply because they terrorize and attack her. The teen begs her supervisor to allow her to work with and ride Manhattan. She is deterred at first, but persistence leads the way to a better life for both girl and mare. Mr. Wilkinson, finally, grudgingly, allows Jay to bond with the cantankerous equine.
The young apprentice rider is handling several other horses, and as time passes, she is even assigned to work a race. Jay cannot believe that her dream goal of becoming a jockey has suddenly become true! She has been working hard in the gym on the racehorse simulator to build up her racing muscles, and she studied hard at the training school. Jay rides the second string horse in front of the owner. She is told to ride in the race, but not to win since a winner for that race has already been selected. This unexpected requirement slaps Jay in the face with the reality of the racehorse industry.
The horse racing world is notoriously difficult for both equines and humans. I worked briefly in Australia as a hotwalker at a notable horse racing barn. This book was clearly well-researched and was written by a former amateur jockey.