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Battleship: A Daring Heiress, a Teenage Jockey, and America's Horse Hardcover – April 30, 2013
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The heiress of the subtitle was Marion du Pont, a steeplechase enthusiast. The teenage jockey was 17-year-old Bruce Hobbs, son of a trainer. And America’s horse was Battleship, born of Man o’ War, a small but strong Thoroughbred who became, in 1938, the first American horse to win the English Grand National steeplechase (which had been running, except for a brief break in WWI, since 1839). Although the book is titled after the horse, it’s really the story of Marion, a woman who so dedicated herself to Battleship that she nearly left everything else in her life behind, and of Bruce, who became the Grand National’s youngest winner and whose riding career was cut short a handful of years later. Author Ours, who also wrote Man o’ War (2006), clearly has a deep appreciation for racehorses, their riders, and the people who build their lives around them. Perfect for fans of Lauren Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit (2001) or Bill Nack’s Secretariat (1975). --David Pitt
“Meticulously researched and beautifully written. Ours masterfully ties the sport of racing together with the outer world that embraces it, all the while presenting a cast of human characters we grow to care about, and whose patience and faith ultimately allowed a horse's greatness to shine through . . . A gifted writer with a great tale to tell.” ―Daily Racing Form
“Dorothy Ours' fresh perspective makes for delightful reading. Straight from the gate, this is a well-researched exploration of Team Battleship, as well as a colorful snapshot of an era when horses could still be national heroes. . . Battleship is a moving read by a talented writer, and a worthy addition to any sporting library.” ―The Equiery magazine
“Author Ours clearly has a deep appreciation for racehorses, their riders, and the people who build their lives around them. Perfect for fans of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit or Bill Nack's Secretariat.” ―Booklist
“Evokes a time when horse racing was not only the sport of kings, but captured the global imagination of millions . . . a companion for Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit” ―Kirkus
“Battleship reminds us that many thoroughbreds, like many humans, are only getting started in their Derby days . . . If, like Battleship, we have it in us to try the Grand National steeplechase, we may even rise to 4 miles and 856 yards, jumping 30 fences, leaping as high as our own shoulders while carrying much heavier burdens than the Derby babies bear. And that, more than any Derby victory, should give us hope . . . As Battleship the late-bloomer proved, there's more than one way to the Hall of Fame.” ―New York Times horse racing blog, The Rail
“Following her superb biography of America's greatest racehorse Man o'War, Dorothy Ours tells the story of Man o'War's son, Battleship, and his quest to win the Grand National steeplechase. Like the heroine Velvet Brown of Enid Bagnold's novel National Velvet, Battleship's owner, Marion duPont Scott, persisted in her belief that her little American horse belonged in England's greatest and most challenging race over jumps. Ours' cadenced language, both elegant and often exhilarating, recalls the thundering hooves and pounding heart of her champion.” ―Elizabeth M. Tobey, Ph.D.
“Anybody with an appreciation of racing's history is certain to be enthralled by the richness given to this uniquely American tale of a Man o' War son traveling to England for the world's greatest steeplechase race at Aintree. Dorothy Ours excels as she breathes excitement into a grand bygone era with great style.” ―Barry Irwin, CEO of Team Valor International, owner and breeder of Kentucky Derby-winner Animal Kingdom
“Meticulously-researched and accurately-written…an easy joy to read. I gained a lot of fascinating new background material on the leading characters, while the vivid description of the race itself was both stirringly exciting and emotionally moving. This is a totally addictive book that I just could not put down.” ―Daily Racing Form
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Her father, William Sr. was the black sheep of the du Pont family, cast out of the family and the family business after a scandalous divorce, he chose to retreat with his new wife and growing kids to an estate with show horses. She and her brother William Jr. grew up in the country; Marion duPont learned to ride with both legs on either side of a horse; first riding saddle-seat horses and later hunters until the fateful day she saw legendary Man o'War auctioned off and her dream made itself known. Both Marion and William would come to love racehorses, Marion preferring hunt races, her brother preferring flats.
Bruce Hobbs was born to a fanatical father; Reginald Hobbs was a legendary trainer and he dreamed of a son whose name would be more famous than his own. Bruce was asked for perfection with horses from a very young age-- as someone who rides horses I can honestly say that some of Bruce's training would border on child abuse today-- But that training eventually paid off.
Battleship is the undersized son of Man o War...And nobody knows what to think of him. One day he sets blistering fractions and the next he looks like he's dead on his feet...and Marion can hardly wait to own him.
First, I can't imagine the amount of research Dorothy Ours needed to do to get all her facts straight; this book reads like fiction. At times its easy to dissociate from the fact that this really happened, and imagine "characters" playing this drama out. Its all to easy to cry over fatal accidents, sick and hurting friends, and broken hearts, even though part of you knows it happened over 70 years ago.
Secondly, I love that it reads like fiction! The whole problem I have with non-fiction is that too many facts can be boring. Dorothy Ours managed to write about races that happened years ago as if she were watching them in person. You get to see the attachments these people had to each other and to their horses. The dedication they had to the sport and their attempts to better it. I love the references to events happening internationally (the second world war) and seeing horse people in their own little bubble.
And considering the era, its really a remarkable event. Marion duPont was stepping outside the realm of what was traditionally expected of women. She was an accomplished rider and managed her own racing stable and the horses inside of it. Bruce Hobbs was the youngest jockey to win the Grand National, but he was also groomed since birth to win it. Battleship, a stallion too small to be a National horse, too temperamental, running in a race that didn't favor stallions or small horses.
I think this is a fantastic book for horse lovers, race fans, or anyone looking to read a nonfiction that reads like fiction
The research by this author was meticulous and it makes a huge difference to me as a reader who has some knowledge of the sports being written about. Nothing annoys me worse than having an author write about a horse running in the Kentucky Derby on two consecutive years, for example. Only 3-year-old colts and filliesare eligible to run in this race. Any horse has only one chance to run in a race for a certain age horse. That is not the case in this book, because the author is knowledgeable. She is the author of an excellent book about Man O' War, the sire of Battleship.
Anyway, I liked this book and I recommend it for those who are interested in racing horses (particularly steeplechase/jumping horses) and in American and British history. Much of the book takes place in the late 20s and finishes in about 1939, just before World War II totally involved both countries. You will read about the ancestors of several of the major American racing dynasties that are still involved in the sport of kings.
Most recent customer reviews
it hits home when you live so close the Du Ponts.