From Publishers Weekly
Cain reaches the winner's circle with this thorough, enthralling study of the Thoroughbred horse-racing industry, which, over the past century, has gone from gentleman's hobby to billion-dollar business. At annual auctions like the Fasig-Tipton in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., would-be buyers dressed in Town & Country
–style silk suits place big bets in their quest for the "home-run horse," a Triple Crown contender with millions of dollars in earning potential, or "the Thoroughbred sport's equivalent of hitting the lottery." Cain, a Daily Racing Form
editor, explains how one such mogul—wealthy, bespectacled, 53-year-old Satish Sanan—hit pay dirt when his $2.15-million yearling, aptly named Vindication, won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and skyrocketed in value. Other beneficiaries include breeders like Taylor Made Farm, a family-run operation near Lexington, Ky., that holds up to 650 Thoroughbreds at a time and has generated $830 million in revenue over its 25-year history. The high stakes put pressure squarely on the trainers, who are expected to produce the next Unbridled's Song or Seattle Slew; as one puts it, "You didn't want the horse to lose when you knew the owner had $30,000 or $40,000 bet on him." Cain's captivating book brims with history, drama and characters; readers will be sucked in long before crossing the finish line.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The success of Smarty Jones over two thirds of the most recent Triple Crown campaign reminded the public that it is possible for a group of pals to parlay a whimsical purchase into a multi-million dollar payday. "The Home Run Horse," subtitled "Inside America's Billion-Dollar Racehorse Industry and the High-Stakes Dreams That Fuel It," clarifies the record by demonstrating that getting a horse to the track - any track - is a longshot, and that the odds against winning The Kentucky Derby, even though some horse does it every year, are nearly incalculable.
As a writer for the Daily Racing Form, Glenye Cain has learned the business of racing, and she writes about it with enthusiasm and wit. Some of the stars of her story are horses, whether they are racing or procreating, but anybody who knows anything about the track understands that the people at work and play there can be fascinating, too, and Cain harkens back several centuries to demonstrate that fact. Her tales of Dennis O'Kelly, who helped run a brothel in London in the late 1700's and owned Eclipse, a home run horse if there ever was one, are worth the price of the book. She is too discreet to speculate on the extent to which O'Kelly, "former gigolo and debtor turned aristocrat poseur," is representative of the latter day upper echelons of the sport of kings.
There are those who object to racing and, by extension, to books that make the activity seem romantic and exciting, because they consider the business cruel to animals. No doubt they have a case, at least when cruel and stupid owners and trainers are involved, though at the level of the sport Glenye Cain is exploring, the amount of money invested in the animals militates against both stupidity and cruelty. In fact, Cain turns up one story of the thoroughbred Tapit, who sups on eggs and Guinness. Not, as Ned Martin used to say, too shabby. -- Bill Littlefield, onlyagame.org, March 2007