Black Gold by Marguerite Henry

Black Gold by Marguerite Henry

“A haunt in the wind”

That’s how Al Hoots described the small, thin filly named U-See-It who happily crunched his peppermints in the saddling shed before her big race. Al picked up such talk from his wife, Rosa, of the Osage tribe. In the newly-minted state of Oklahoma, the spring weather of 1909 saw most everybody who lived near the Chisholm Trail come out to watch the match race between little U-See-It and a big-striding mare from Missouri named Belle Thompson.  Soon enough Al Hoots had traded 80 acres of land for the little filly, and she began winning races for him. That’s just the beginning of the story Black Gold, by Marguerite Henry.

Meanwhile over in Louisiana, a young Irish American boy named Jaydee Mooney started working to support his family after his father died.  He labored hard at the nearby dairy farm before school, and later did chores at the fairgrounds racing park in New Orleans. He walked the hot horses, fed them, groomed them and did most anything else he was asked. Hard-working, kind, and honest, Jaydee got noticed by the owners and trainers.  Pretty soon he was promoted to exercise boy:

“He lived in a world of good sounds and smells and sights.  The creak of leather, the pound of hoofs, the hay-sweet smell, the golden straw smell, and the acrid barn smell; and early morning mist and morning star and the moon still shining and boys whistling and birds singing and horses bugling.”

Years ticked on for both Jaydee and Al Hoots.  U-See-It became almost unstoppable. Then Al did a foolish thing. He entered the mare in a claiming race—a race where any other owner could come forward afterward and buy her for $500.  He thought he knew all the other owners, and no one would break his heart by buying her. They had said so. But one of them lied.  A man did come forward. Al refused to sell and scared off the would-be owner so badly that the track officials barred him and his mare from racing for life.

But the story only grows from there. Oil was discovered on the Osage land and part of the money was used to breed U-See-It to a top stallion called Black Toney. U-See-It’s colt was called Black Gold, and he went on to make racing history at the 1924 Kentucky Derby with Jaydee Mooney as his rider.

Black Gold is based on a true story which makes it all the more compelling. As in her many other horse books, such as Misty of Chincoteague and King of the Wind, this author blends history and story so well that anyone who reads her work will have a better understanding of another time and place, set as it is to the cadence of hoof beats.