'Thoroughbred': Equine Ups and Downs

Animal Planet has come up with an unlikely family-friendly series in Thoroughbred, which shows the painstaking process behind the development of winning racehorses.

Casual viewers of major races like the Kentucky Derby don't realize all that goes into those fleeting seconds of TV coverage-or all that rides on them. This series goes a long way toward filling in the blanks.

On one level it's a documentary, on another it is a Waltons-esque story about a hardworking family that raises horses for a living.

The family's patriarch is Bill Boniface, who began Bonita Farm in 1963. He, his three sons (Billy, Kevin and John) and a small staff work with 150 horses on their 400-acre property.

In the opening episode, actor Keith Carradine-who does a nice job on the narration-sets the stage by telling us the family is prepping four promising horses for the "Maryland Million," that state's biggest race. The Boniface clan thinks a two-year-old filly, Christmas Shoes, could be its next winner.

It's been a long time since its last one, Deputed Testamony, which won a Triple Crown race (the Preakness at Pimlico in Maryland) by two lengths back in 1983.

Wins also are important for a practical reason. Raising horses is an expensive proposition; Bonita's veterinarian bills alone stand at $250,000 a year.

Kudos go to producers Nancy LeBrun and Peter Koeppen and director Eugenie Vink, who also serve as writers on the series.

will bow on Animal Planet April 3 at 8 p.m.