by Fran Jurga | 1 May 2009 | The Jurga ReportWe all deserve a second chance, right? If you believe that, give some thought to the horses whose races won’t be televised on Saturday when the Kentucky Derby spectacular pulls Americans to their televisions for their annual dose of horse racing. Think about the horses who run on Tuesdays. In the second race. On tracks far from the freshly-painted twin towers of Churchill Downs.
Debbie Blumenthal was thinking of those horses when she wrote the story of Black Diamond and Blake. Black Diamond is a successful racehorse whose career starts to go downhill. While he could have been bound for a slaughterhouse, Black Diamond finds himself instead at a strange type of farm: a prison farm that is quite unlike the horse farm where he grew up.
Lucky for Black Diamond, he strikes up a friendship with a prisoner named Blake and he blossoms under Blake’s care until the bittersweet day when Blake’s sentence is served and he’s set free.
What will happen to Black Diamond in the hands of the other prisoners once Blake is gone? And what will Blake do with his new skills in horsemanship in the outside world? This book is timely, with all the efforts going on in New York and elsewhere to help retired racehorses.
Black Diamond and Blake is written and (beautifully) illustrated as a children’s book but this story carries a wallop of a message for anyone even peripherally involved with racing or horses of any kind.
The book was published by Knopf Books for Young Readers this spring. If author Debbie Blumenthal’s name sounds familiar, it is because she has been the longtime beauty editor of the New York Times.
Debbie told me today via email that she had no previous relationship with Thoroughbred retirement until she wrote this book. “My inspiration for BLACK DIAMOND AND BLAKE was a New York Times article that ran in April of 2001 about the horse-care program at Kentucky’s Blackburn Correctional Complex. The program was started, as you probably know, by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.
“I’m a city-girl — from Manhattan — and before I read that story, I had no knowledge of the fate of many racehorses after their glory days at the track were over,” she continued. “It just seemed like such a smart idea to have a program that both saved racehorses and saved men, offering both a second chance at a new and better life.”
Debbie also brought my attention to the fact this this year is the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, and this book will certainly be a great building block in the celebration of their many accomplishments–the prison farm program is only one of many!
Consider this book for your gift-giving list or as a prize or award at shows and events. It would make a great fundraiser for your local horse rescue organization or racehorse retraining program. The list price is $16.99 and the book should be available through any independent bookstore if you supply the title, author and publisher name.