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Headless Horsemen: A Tale of Chemical Colts, Subprime Sales Agents, and the Last Kentucky Derby on Steroids Hardcover – August 4, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; First Edition edition (August 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805090606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805090604
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #659,773 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Squires, a newspaperman–turned–horse breeder who bred 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos (chronicled in his 2003 book, Horse of a Different Color), offers a meandering though at times hilarious and informative look at the troubled condition of horse racing at the end of 2008. The book is a subjective combination of memoir, recent horse-racing history and rant at the use of steroids, subprime sales agents and the tradition-laden powers who oversee the horse business, known as the Dinnies. Squires, a self-described pygmy breeder, spins some engaging stories, especially about the exploits and influence wielded by the late veterinarian Dr. Alexander Harthill on the outcomes of the Kentucky Derby. Although Squires is critical of much in horse racing, he writes persuasively about the love for horses that he and his wife share with real horse people. And Squires makes a passionate defense of the integrity of Larry Jones, who trained Eight Belles, the horse euthanized on the track after finishing second and then breaking both ankles in the 2008 Kentucky Derby. For casual horse-racing fans, though, some of his exposition on the multifarious boards that run the industry or the minutiae of X-rays given to horses may be more detail than necessary. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Acerbic wit and an insider’s brazen take on the elusive horse-game."—Sam Shepard

"I laughed. I cried. I read this book a second time, and then I cried again. If you want to know how thoroughbred horse racing in the United States has destroyed itself, this is the book for you. If you want to know what is to be done, this is the book for you. I can’t recommend it highly enough."—Jane Smiley

"Jim Squires has written a sad and scathing and all-too-true story about the greed and obtuseness that are destroying the once glorious sport of thoroughbred horse racing and that are turning that most magnificent of God’s creatures -- the thoroughbred horse -- into a steroid-swollen dinosaur. The charlatans of the Kentucky breeding industry and at the New York Racing Association -- as well as their overpaid apologists -- should read every page of Squires’s indictment with heads hung in shame."—Joe McGinniss

"[A]n insider's stunning account of the corrupt practices that threaten both the horses and the game. . . . Squires' folksy style makes for an engrossing read."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"[A] hilarious and informative look at the troubled condition of horse racing."--Publishers Weekly

"Exposes a thoroughbred horse-racing industry drowning in drug abuse and rife with unscrupulous business practices. . . . A well-told cautionary tale about greed and willful inattention."--Kirkus Reviews


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Customer Reviews

Great reading and a "must read" for anyone in the horse industry.
Glory Ann Kurtz
When its all done you are left with a story told by a guy who comes across bitter that he was never accepted into the very cliques he decries.
Soapy Smith
My impression is that this book was written hastily and put into print without any editor saying, "Whoa, this needs a lot more work!"
Portland Pony

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Best Of All on August 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Greed. Unbridled greed.

Author Jim Squires caught lightning in a jar when his Kentucky-based Two Bucks Farm bred 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos. Chronicled in his 2002 book, Horse of a Different Color (2003 paperback; Perseus Books Group: PublicAffairs), it is a wonderful story of a small breeding farm defying the odds and permanently carving its name into the Thoroughbred record book.

But there is no joy in Headless Horsemen: A Tale of Chemical Colts, Subprime Sale Agents, and the Last Kentucky Derby on Steroids (August 4, 2009; Times Books: Henry Holt and Company, LLC), as Squires provides a candid account of the other side of the "Sport of Kings," which includes a small club of influential owners and their sycophants who run the industry for private gain, the proliferation of illegal drugs being pumped into equine athletes and the unseemly price manipulation at public auctions and in private deals by "agents" who knowingly inflate prices in a game to boost profits, with a total disregard to the true reality of the marketplace.

The sordid saga is laced with Squires piecing together accounts from a variety of sources - but oftentimes lacking a "smoking gun" of documentary evidence - which is not surprising, since every facet of the industry has mostly avoided the public and professional scrutiny found in other sports. There are explosive allegations that may not be new to those who meticulously follow racing, but are now available to a wider audience.

Squires believes that steroids entered the sport as early as the 1950s and other dangerous drugs like cocaine were used to boost the performances of racers for many years.
Read more ›
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By B. Clark on August 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Squires book is an insiders take on what is ruining the horse racing industry. The thing I like
best about Squires book is that he holds no punches and is painfully candid.
From health battles, to personal feuds, to taking his finger and clearly pointing it at who is exactly at fault, the book is amazing. Squires has boldly gone where no horse racing author has gone before. He takes on the biggest and richest leaders in the racing world with an incredible amount of humor and humility.
I would recommend this book for every 2 dollar better to anybody who has been lucky enough to bid on or own a thoroughbred. Three cheers for Squires.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Portland Pony on October 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This could have been a wonderful book. The subject is good. The writing isn't.

I had to force myself to keep reading until the end. Then I wanted to take all the information from it, spread it out, organize it, and put it back together into a logical and coherent story. I suspect that if I tried that, I'd find some duplicated pieces and a lot of missing ones. Several times, I had to reread sentences trying to make sense of them. I should have made notes so I could give examples of problems, but I didn't, and I'm not about to reread it to do so.

It's a mystery why Mr. Squires thought he should include his ordeal with kidney stones anywhere in the book. His problems with Indian Charlie also seemed off track. He also went on and on about his love for a mare, which seemed to have nothing to do with the subject of the book. These pieces probably could have been woven into the story neatly if more care had been taken with them. Instead, they're just strange, jolting sidetracks.

My impression is that this book was written hastily and put into print without any editor saying, "Whoa, this needs a lot more work!"
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By ivy7496 on August 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
"Among the errors: writing on page 119 that Funny Cide won two legs of the Triple Crown in 2004 (he won in 2003); on the same page saying Azeri won Horse of the Year in 2003 (she won in 2002); repeatedly spelling the name of WinStar Farm co-owner Bill Casner as Castner on page 179, and writing that New York legalized the use of Lasix in 1985 on page 133 (it was 1995)."

Credit to Alicia Wincze [...]
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Erika E. Holderith on September 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Eight Belle's tragic death after her excellent 2nd place finish to Big Brown's Kentucky Derby victory initiated much scrutiny into the practices of breeding and racing thoroughbreds. The resulting US House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce Hearings brought to light the urgent need for reform within the thoroughbred racing world. I was particularly struck by the testimonies of Allie Conrad (CANTER USA - an organization which finds homes for horses no longer able to race), Jess Jackson (owner of Curlin and Rachel Alexandra), Arthur Hancock (Hancock family thoroughbred breeding and racing enterprises) and Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg.

Unfortunately, there is little coverage of any follow-through on the recommendations presented at the hearings. Jim Squires has done an excellent job of reporting on the current state of affairs. His status as breeder of Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos and as former editor for the Chicago Tribune well-position him to provide the reader and hopefully the thoroughbred industry with a clear description of what problems any much-needed organizational reform needs to address.

For those that care about thoroughbreds and horse racing, this is the first book that I would recommend.
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