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When teenaged orphan Sparke Thornton is sent to live with his uncle, J. T. "Thunder" Bolt, and aunt, Penelope, in Indiana, the sullen youngster decides to run away on the first day of his arrival. As Sparke is walking, however, he comes across a harness racing track on the neighboring farm, owned by Godaw Boole, and watches as Charlotte "Char" Bruce works a horse. Sparke admires Char's driving ability and talks with black handler Tuppy, who reveals that Thunder's Roundhouse Farm was once a prestigious training ground for harness horses, and that Thunder was a well-respected sulky driver. Thunder's remaining horse, The Lady, is still a beautiful, loving animal despite her blindness and Thunder's neglect of her, and Sparke decides to stay at Roundhouse after Tuppy promises to teach him how to drive a sulky. When he returns to the Roundhouse for supper, Sparke tells Thunder and Penny about his great love for horses, but Thunder orders him to attend school instead of hanging around Boole's property. The next day, Sparke promptly goes to Boole's ranch and, as he is walking across a field, is charged by Hamilcar Chief, a high-spirited stallion. Sparke calms the animal, however, and his instinctive rapport with Chief impresses Boole's daughter Christopher, who is called "Cri-Cri." Cri-Cri persuades head trainer Jed Bruce to give Sparke a try at driving, and although Sparke fails the test, his humility and willingness to learn convince Bruce to allow him to return. Sparke works diligently with Char and Tuppy and soon develops the "hands" of gentleness and strength needed to guide a harness horse. One evening, Thunder is drunk when Sparke returns home, and Aunt Penny explains that Thunder, who used to be partners with Boole, was ruined by him after they quarreled over Boole's harsh treatment of a mare. Racing is still in Thunder's blood, however, and his hostility and drunkenness result from his long-stifled desire to return to the track. Sparke is determined to help his uncle, and later that night, sneaks Chief out of his stable to visit Lady. The next morning, Char and Moe Rum, Chief's groom, see Sparke returning Chief, and Sparke talks them into helping him obtain the certificate required to prove that Chief is the father of Lady's foal. Later, the trio succeed in obtaining the documents, and Lady's foal, Maudeen Four, is born. Thunder, who was at first furious with Sparke for his meddling, is delighted by Lady's daughter and helps Sparke train her. Sparke's obsession with horses is occasionally interrupted by his infatuation with the sophisticated Cri-Cri, who considers him too young to be taken seriously. Char is in love with Sparke, but he is unaware of her feelings and thinks of her as his best friend. On the day of Sparke and Maudeen's first race, they win the first heat, but are "boxed in" by a rival driver during the next heat and Maudeen is injured. Sparke trounces the other driver in a fistfight, and then anxiously tends to Maudeen. Later, the horse has fully recovered, and Sparke prepares for their next race. Before the event, Sparke realizes how Char feels about him and that he returns her affections. Meanwhile, Tuppy and Thunder have discovered that Maudeen is going blind, like Lady, but decide to let Sparke race her. With skill and determination, the pair win the race, although Sparke is devastated at the end when he realizes that Maudeen is now completely blind. Thunder, whose zest for work has been restored, reassures Sparke that Maudeen will still have a happy life, and that her offspring will be trained to become great champions. Bruce, who has quit as Boole's trainer, decides to join the Roundhouse and help restore its glory, and Sparke and Char kiss as they ride home with Maudeen.