It's a story about patience and persistence.
It's a story about dreams ... and dreams fulfilled.
It's Amanda Smith's story.
Amanda, 31, lives in West Manchester Township, near the West Manchester Mall. Not exactly horse country.
Yet she considers herself a horse person. She is, after all, the owner of a 14-year-old trail horse -- an Appaloosa and Percheron cross -- named Emmy, which she boards on a farm near Dover.
Her love of horses started when she was 9, she said, when she started taking riding lessons. And it's never stopped.
As far as she was concerned, her horse aspirations might never have amounted to more than her being a one-horse owner who rode for fun once a week. She's got a busy life, after all. She's a pharmacist at Rite-Aid on Eastern Boulevard in York, and like a lot of horse owners, her equestrian efforts are restricted to weekends and days off work.
She'd never given a thought to owning a racehorse until one day earlier this year when she happened across a listing on the Alex Brown Web site about retiring Thoroughbred racehorses -- perfectly good horses, healthy horses that are at the end of their racing days.
"I kept checking and found the Top Bunk list, which is a list of older horses racing at a track near York," Amanda said.
That's when she saw Pay Attention up close.
"He was so cute," she said. "He had a goofy white blaze on his face.
"And he seemed calm, sane."
That was in early March. And she was hooked. Hooked on Pay Attention, an 8-year-old gelding owned by York County President Commissioner Steve Chronister. Hooked on a horse with a lifetime racing record of 74-12-8-11 (74 races, 12 wins, eight seconds and 11 third-place finishes). Hooked on a horse that won more than half-a-million dollars in his career.
According to Amanda, Chronister had picked up Pay Attention in April 2008 at a claiming race for $5,000. And he'd probably spent at least $15,000 -- bone chip removal surgery, boarding, vet bills, trainer and racing fees, etc. -- on Pay Attention in one year.
He and a partner had owned racehorses for 10 years or more, Chronister said, but Pay Attention was the last in their stable.
"I've had a few horses retired over the years," he said, "but Amanda was the first person interested enough to contact me directly. I was glad to hear from her."
Amanda figured Pay Attention might be near the end of the line as a racehorse. The two races she watched him run at Penn National were unimpressive -- both finishes near the back of the pack.
But she wasn't interested in him as a racehorse. She was looking for a pleasure horse, and he was now the object of her affection. It didn't matter than she didn't have a lot of money, she had to have that horse. Some how. Some way.
Ahhh, if only it was that easy. But that's where her persistence paid off. She attended several more races, each time connecting with Pay Attention's trainers -- Bruce and Lori Kravets. She gave them a small bag filled with horse snacks (carrots, apples and peppermints) and a note saying she'd like to have Pay Attention when he retired from racing. She did that at least three times, she said.
She also e-mailed Chronister, telling him the same thing. That was on April 25. All she had was $1,000, she told him, but she'd be willing to pay that much for Pay Attention when he was retired.
A thousand dollars for a Thoroughbred racehorse? It seemed unlikely -- after all, Chronister had a lot of money invested in the horse. But Chronister said he'd let her know if he still owned the horse when it was retired.
That was not much consolation, of course, but it was better than a flat-out no. At least Amanda could hope. And thanks to constant encouragement from other horse people on the Alex Brown Web site, she refused to give up.
Then on May 22 -- it was Amanda's 31st birthday -- she again went to see Pay Attention at Penn National. While there, her cell phone rang. It was Lori Kravets.
"She told me Steve (Chronister) was ready to retire Pay Attention. Yes, he was serious. Yes, I could afford to take care of another horse. Yes, yes, yes."
Happy Birthday to Amanda.
Her life hasn't been the same since.
One week later -- on Saturday, May 30 -- Pay Attention was hers. She went to the Kravets' farm near Penn National and signed the papers. Two hours later, the horse was in a small paddock by himself on a farm in Abbottstown. He'll be transferred to the Dover farm in a couple months.
"He's been awesome from Day One," Amanda said. "Very sane, very calm, not aggressive and very intelligent. We put him in a small paddock by himself. All he did was run around, check everything out. He was turned out the whole day, something racehorses in training don't get to do. He wasn't even used to grass."
Has she ridden him yet? No. And she doesn't expect to for several more months, maybe the end of the year. Pay Attention -- his new name is Payten -- needs to get racing out of his system. He must be retrained for pleasure riding and that will take some time.
"But I groom him. I bathe him. I lead him around the paddock. We're getting to know each other," Amanda said. "He's been very civilized, a little pushy, but getting better every day."
It's been expensive, she admitted, but nothing she can't handle if she manages to cut back on shopping trips -- no more expensive handbags and make-up.
And her boyfriend -- "he's scared of horses," she said -- has been supportive from afar.
But there's no doubt, she said, that "it's all been worth it."
As for Chronister, he says his sale of Pay Attention puts him out of the horse racing business. At least for now.
"I'm just happy Pay Attention found a good home. After he had that surgery, he just didn't come back strong," he said. "So we called it quits. That happens sometimes. My only stipulation was that Pay Attention can never race again. I'm glad someone stepped up to take him. He deserves a life of leisure."
One racehorse with a new home, a new name, a new owner and nothing better to do than eat grass all day long. A couple times a month, he'll have to take Amanda for a walk in the woods.
Life hardly gets any better than that for a horse.
Sports columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch colum nist, run Thursdays. E-mail: email@example.com.