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Not by a Long Shot: A Season at a Hard Luck Horse Track Hardcover – April 2, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this intermittently engaging book, Thornton narrates a long season at Boston's Suffolk Downs racetrack, a blue-collar gambling bastion struggling for survival in the casino age. Thornton—who has spent his life around racetracks as a gambler, groom, reporter, announcer and PR man—possesses a deep sympathy for and understanding of the dynamics and contradictions that sustain this threatened world. As our tour director, he introduces the reader to hard-luck horses and eccentric jockeys, gambling scandals and betting strategies, as well as the ice and rain that inevitably make the sport of kings in New England a muddy mess. Thornton's credentials are impeccable, he has unrivaled access, and he delivers keen observations in a style that alternates between workmanlike and poetic. However, the various story lines he traces—a jockey paralyzed in a racing accident, an old gray famous for finishing second, a shady owner, and his father's small stable—are not strong enough to hold the book together or draw the reader all the way in. Any horseracing fan who wants a peek at the inner workings of a track will want to pick this up, but the attention of the general public might wander. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"A Good Read: True horseracing fans will enjoy T.D. Thornton's new book...we couldn't put it down" -- New York Daily News, March 30, 2007

"An honest top-of-the-grandstand overview... [The] book has the drama and flow of an episodic novel." -- Illinois Racing News, June, 2007

"Legitimate literature and the racetrack have hit the quarter pole together again." -- The Blood Horse, April 24, 2007

"Like all good narrative nonfiction, this scrappy outsider pulls you in early and won't let go until the bitter(sweet) end." -- Louisville Courier-Journal on Derby Day, 5/5

"The book covers the ground of a mile-and-a-half route but reads like a five-and-a-half-furlong sprint." -- New Hampshire Union Leader, May 1, 2007

"There's no doubt Thornton can write. Witness a poetic turn among the 'stoopers.'" -- Racing Post, July 8, 2007

"With a `caustically honest' eye Thornton succeeds in illuminating a truer side of Thoroughbred racing... [A] steed of a book." -- Boston Globe, May 19, 2007

"a truly unique perspective...We see Thornton's more introspective, insightful side." -- Lowell Sun, April 13, 2007

"an interesting behind-the-scenes look at a business that relies on luck, unpredictable athletes, and statistics to survive..." -- Pahrump (NV) Valley Times, Aprilg 18, 2007

"provides a good picture of the plight of small-time racing" -- Library Journal, April 1, 2007
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1St Edition edition (April 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586484494
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586484491
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #949,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I'm a Boston-based writer who aspires to create books that give a voice to dark, edgy characters. Gamblers, prize fighters and racetrackers have been my most appealing subjects to date, and the most intriguing type of writing for me involves giving a literary twist to "low" subjects.

I am currently at work on a book about the glorious underbelly of 1920's con artistry, as detailed through the flair and showmanship of the greatest swindler America has never heard of. "My Adventures With Your Money: George Graham Rice and the Golden Age of the Con Artist" will be published in November 2015 by St. Martin's Press.

My first book, "Not by a Long Shot--A Season at a Hard-Luck Horse Track," chronicled a year at a blue-collar racetrack. In 2008 "Long Shot" won the Castleton Lyons Book Award and was named a "Highly Recommended" finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award.



Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By K. C. Pears on April 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I've grown up around horses, without really appreciating horse racing, except as the occasional spectator at big event races (or once or twice, as the owner of a former race horse). I found myself completely captured by the book -- not so much because I like horses, but because it brought together for me all of the reasons I worry about horse racing and yet want racing to survive because it is so much a part of the horse "world." Horses are symbols both of freedom and tragedy, as so clearly demnonstrated with this tale.

T.D. Thornton is a masterful writer who does not follow a formula. In some ways, his strong and elegant writing reminds me of another favorite writer, Tracy Kidder, as he lets the story unfold rather than forcing a snappy ending. While Publishers Weekly criticized "Not by a Long Shot" as perhaps not having a strong enough narrative line -- that was exactly what drew me in, because the story never felt contrived or fomulaic. The tale of Suffolk Downs and its cast of characters, both four footed and two (and a few whose legs no longer work) are fascinating. I both wanted to hurry to the end -- and dreaded getting to the end, because that would mean I would have to exit the stage where anything can happen, including an unexpected win from an unlikely pair or a blood chilling accident from a pair that try too hard. I deliberately refused to allow myself to look at the sporting news to see whether Suffolk Downs itself still survives today -- and I won't give away that outcome here.

I found myself eager to spend a day at my own local race track after reading this book, just to compare notes. This book is in the great tradition of memoirs, giving the reader an insider's view of a special place.

Thank you, T.D. Thornton! I'll be looking for your byline elsewhere.
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Format: Hardcover
Amid the glimmer and glitz, pomp and pageantry surrounding thoroughbred racing's famed Triple Crown it is very easy to forget that most of the folks who choose to make a living in the racing game toil in relative anonymity and many have a very difficult time just making ends meet. Author T.D. Thornton has been around racetracks for virtually all of his adult working life. "Not By A Long Shot: A Season At A Hard Luck Horse Track" is a story that Thornton felt really needed to be told. For only a tiny percentage of the horses, trainers and jockeys will ever see the big time. Yet without those who ply their trade at "mid-level" tracks like Suffolk Downs in Boston, Charles Town in West Virginia and Rockingham Park in New Hampshire, events like the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders Cup simply could not happen. "Not By A Long Shot" takes a look at the current state of thoroughbred racing in this country. Years in the making, "Not By A Long Shot" chronicles the 2000 spring meet at Boston's Suffolk Downs, a once proud facility now struggling to merely survive. Those who follow the sport will certainly understand what T.D. Thornton is writing about. For the rest of us, this book proves to be a real eye opener.

In the early chapters of "Not By A Long Shot" T.D. Thornton spends some time reviewing the history of thoroughbred racing in these United States. In the 1930's and 1940's thoroughbred racing was at the peak of its popularity. Enormous crowds filled the grandstands on a daily basis at major tracks across the country. Thoroughbreds like "Seabiscuit", "Whirlaway", "Citation" and "War Admiral" were household names. In this era, thoroughbred racing was not just the sport of kings but the sport of the common man as well.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By snappyguynj on May 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A fantastic read on one track in particuar and the entire racing industry as a whole. An important and very enjoyable read for anyone who loves the track. Thornton covers it all, from the politicians down to the wackiest track degenerates. Highly recommended for anyone who has been bitten by the racetrack bug at some point in their life.

At some point racing is going to be gone for good. This book tells us all the great things, available nowhere else, that we're going to lose.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Susan Bagnara on September 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
For someone who knows nothing about the racing industry this is an enlightening glimpse into the mechanics, personalities and stories that come together to create the excitement of the racing industry. The outsider may see this as the "sport of kings," with all the glamour we watch at the Kentucky Derby but this is a window into the toothless, hapless, shrewd, caring varied characters on the lower scale that keep the racing industry alive. Mr Thornton's style of writing is addictive, one gets caught up in his usage of words and his turns of phrase. A picture forms in one's mind and you can begin to watch the movie in your head.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Altobelli on January 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is definitely worth your time if you are a horse-racing fan. This is especially true if you are aware of the life of day-to-day racing at a lower-level track like Suffolk Downs, because that is who the author writes about. The people and horses at a place like that are the backbone of racing, and there are plenty of interesting tales to tell. I wouldn't call it a great book, but it's solid, informative, and entertaining.
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