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The Home Run Horse: Inside America's Billion-Dollar Racehorse Industry and the High-Stakes Dreams that Fuel It Hardcover – September 2, 2004

4.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Daily Racing Form (September 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0972640126
  • ISBN-13: 978-0972640121
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,283,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Nicholas Clee on May 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Anyone with an interest in horseracing will enjoy Glenye Cain's behind-the-scenes look at the thoroughbred industry; and newcomers to the sport will find plenty to entertain them in these pages too. Cain has an eye for the details that make vivid this self-contained and expensive world: the quirks of the owners, breeders, trainers and horses. She conveys the atmosphere of the sales ring as wealthy owners do battle, of a stud farm late at night as a mare gives birth, of Churchill Downs racecourse as trainers prepare their expensive and fragile charges for the Kentucky Derby. In love with the industry, she does not neglect its darker side. After reading The Home Run Horse, you'll watch horseracing with new insight and enthusiasm.
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I loved this book. It explores the world of high rollers and horse lovers in an educational and extremely entertaining way. Moreover, it explains how horses most people have never heard of like Vindication can become a $10 million (or even $50 million dollar) business without winning a lot of races. It also exposes the underside of the high-stakes racehorse industry, which is that thousands of horses give their all and are rewarded by being sent to slaughterhouses. This happened to the great Exceller (who beat 2 Triple Crown winners: Affirmed and Seattle Slew) and Kentucky Derby winner, Ferdinand. Unlike many books on thoroughbreds, the writing is brisk and lively and fun to read. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves horses and horseracing.
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Format: Hardcover
The author, Glenye Cain, has been covering Barbaro for The Daily Racing Form. She sent me her book after I had had a few conversations with her about Barbaro, a horse she adopted (indirectly) off the racetrack that had at one time been trained by Graham Motion, and horse related issues such as horse-slaughter. As someone closely involved in racing I enjoyed the book as it shed light on aspects of our industry in which I was less familiar (breeding / auctions etc). I do think, however, the book best serves those first learning about the thoroughbred industry and wanting to get a solid base of knowledge from which to then build. It is excellent.
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Format: Hardcover
I had been looking for a book to explain the inner workings of the horse racing industry for a while, before stumbling upon this book. This book is nearly 10 years old, but still does a very good job explaining various facets of the industry -- from breeding to training to the importance of bloodstock/genetics in the auction ring.

Each of the 10 chapters in the book covers a different aspect of the horse racing industry. The best chapter in the book for me was the last one. In that chapter, author Glenye Cain talks about owner Arthur Hancock III's improbable Kentucky Derby win with Gato Del Sol in 1982. Hancock sold Gato Del Sol to an owner in Germany several years after the Derby win, then was cajoled by his wife into relocating the horse and buying him back in August 1999. Hancock likened the move to tearing up $25,000, but did so because he and his wife were worried about the fate of Gato Del Sol after reading about the recent slaughter of Exceller -- the only horse ever to defeat two Triple Crown winners.

My other personal favorite chapter in the book was the story of Funny Cide -- a $22,000 yearling that won the first two legs of the 2003 Triple Crown. The connections to Funny Cide clearly overachieved and caught a lot of luck in winning the Derby and Preakness with a horse that cost less than one percent of what some of the other yearlings with a better pedigree fetched at auction that year.

Much of the information in the book centers about horses, races and personalities in the news in the late 1990s and early 2000s, so it is a bit dated now. I don't hold the time factor against the book at all. The book is still a great read in 2013.
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Format: Hardcover
'The Home Run Horse' is a wide-ranging look behind the scenes of the Thoroughbred industry. It's well written, phenomenally interesting, and accessible, though it's probably of greatest interest to those who are already aficionados of horse racing.

Cain organizes her book into ten distinct chapters, each focused on a particular part of the 'home run horse' dream. We're introduced to horses in the classic races, then taken back to the highly industrialized thoroughbred factory farms to see where the real money gets made (at stud). Sections on current practices in the breeding shed, the foaling barn, and the sales ring are followed by chapters that discuss the perils of the track, different training practices, and the sometimes ignominious ends that even the champion horses have come to.

Of particular interest are the sections where she introduces the professionals who make their livings attempting to divine which yearlings will make successful runners. She introduces characters who fall into either the old-school 'eye for horseflesh' or the post-personal-computer 'datacruncher' camps, then proceeds to place them firmly in line with a procession of horsemen who have sought to predict the same horse characteristics for hundreds of years. Cain doesn't make more of things than they are, but its easy to feel awe for the eternal appeal of this sport.

Cain's prose is occasionally bogged down in the minutiae of sales prices and bloodlines, but I tend to think that's less a failure of the author than a natural result of the material. The material is slightly dated, as well, in that there was a particular emphasis placed on the horses running in 2003 and 2004 (Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, etc). Neither of these minor qualms detracted significantly from the reading experience, however, and on the whole I thought this was a quick and thoroughly entertaining read, full of valuable insights into my favorite sport.
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