Thoroughbred (series)

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Thoroughbred 01 cover.jpg
Cover of A Horse Called Wonder

  • Joanna Campbell
  • Karen Bentley
  • Allison Estes
  • Alice Leonhardt
  • Dale Blackwell Gasque
  • Lois Symanski
  • Mary Newhall Anderson
  • Karle Dickerson
  • Jennifer Chu
CountryUnited States
Publisher HarperCollins
Media typePrint
No. of books104 (List of books)

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 (better known as Jo Ann Simon, previously Haessig), 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, Samantha McLean, Cindy Blake/McLean and Ashleigh's 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 shifted to young Samantha McLean. During Samantha's college and adult years, the books centered on Cindy Blake McLean, Samantha's adopted younger sister. Late in the series, there was a large "time gap" before the series focused on 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. By book 15, there were two million Thoroughbred books in print. [1]

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.

Series overview

Books 1–23: Original series

Early on, the series primarily focuses on Ashleigh Griffen and her adventures at Townsend Acres, a racing and breeding farm owned by Clay Townsend. Ashleigh's parents, Derek and Elaine Griffen, take over at the breeding area of Townsend Acres after their own farm, Edgardale, has to be sold because of a virus that spread around the farm and killed both mares and foals. Ashleigh dislikes her new life at first, but becomes more accustomed to it after an older mare named Townsend Holly gives birth to a small filly whom she names Wonder. Though Wonder is very weak and nearly dies multiple times, through Ashleigh's care, the filly grows up to be a Kentucky Derby and Belmont-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.[ citation needed ]

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.[ citation needed ]

List of major characters

List of major horse characters


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 "Brooke James" by an unknown author.


The series was met with mixed reviews. One review noted that while the Thoroughbred books were reliant on the cliché of a bond between a girl and a horse, they were "better written and more knowledgeable" on racing. [2] Charlene Strickland, in a review of Wonder's Promise, wrote that while the book itself was enjoyable, it "frequently lapses into sentimentality". [3]

Later books in the series were less well-received, with critics noting a significant decrease in quality once Campbell retired from the Thoroughbred novels. [2]

See also

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  1. "Duckworth: Writing about Wonder". 2014-07-29. Retrieved 2022-10-28.
  2. 1 2 Haymonds, Alison (2004). 36. Pony books (Part II: Forms and genres). Abingdon, United Kingdom: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. ISBN   978-0-203-32566-7. The long-running Thoroughbred series was created in 1991 by Joanna Campbell, starting with A Horse Called Wonder. These books with their racing background were better written and more knowledgeable than the norm and used that well-tried plot device, the special relationship between girl and horse. However, after fourteen titles in five years, Campbell gave up the gruelling task and the series was taken on by numerous other writers with a considerable diminution in quality.{{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  3. Strickland, Charlene (January 1992). "Wonder's Promise | Book Review: Grades 3–6". School Library Journal . Vol. 38, no. 1. New York. p. 108.