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The Race for the Triple Crown Hardcover – April 9, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Drape, a racing enthusiast and sportswriter for the New York Times, spells out the daunting odds of a horse making it to the Triple Crown: "Of the 35,078 registered thoroughbreds foaled in North America in 1997 the crop eligible for the Triple Crown in 2000... only 19 [stood] in the starting gate at Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby. That's 0.005 percent for the entire crop of foals." In this breezy, yet informative look at the highest level of horse racing, the author traces the lives of a handful of preeminent horse owners, trainers and jockeys in their preparations for the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont. Drape bases his narrative on the colorful coterie attracted to serious racing, from the chic trainer D. Wayne Lukas and his $3,000 suits to Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and his private Emirates Airlines Boeing 747, on which he routinely travels to high-stakes horse auctions to bid millions of dollars on a single colt. Describing how the trainers must come up through the ranks to prove themselves before they begin attracting owners with deep pockets, Drape highlights the sport's grittier side, while simultaneously developing the characters whose horses and egos eventually clash in Louisville, Ky., on the first Saturday in May. Readers unfamiliar with the exclusive world of horse racing will especially enjoy Drape's skill at building drama and shifting focus among the major players to keep the story fresh. Disappointingly, however, he never ventures behind the scenes of the trainer's job to explain how these elite animals are turned into racing giants (for these details, readers should pick up Laura Hillenbrand's recent Seabiscuit). Nevertheless, Drape's zeal for his subject and his comprehensive knowledge provide a gratifying read.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Award-winning New York Times sportswriter Drape does with fact what Jane Smiley did with fiction in Horse Heaven (LJ 3/15/00). He takes a handful of owners, trainers, and jockeys and follows them from the moment they buy the "Big Horse" until the last leg of the Triple Crown. What do the owners, including the fast-food czar and the Japanese businessman accompanied by geishas, have in common? Optimism, risk-taking, money, and a love of racing. What do the horses that win share besides good breeding and talent? Heart. Eccentric Fusaichi Pegasus, The Deputy, and More Than Ready are some of the Big Horses; jockeys Kent Desormeaux and Pat Day add to the mix of unforgettable characters. A devoted horseplayer, Drape has a romantic view of racing, as opposed to the darker view taken by Ann Hagedorn Auerbach in Wild Ride: The Rise and Tragic Fall of Calumet Farm, Inc. (Holt, 1996).
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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Joe Drape begins his story in June, 1999 when the big, beautiful Charismatic, a former claiming horse fractured his foreleg in the Belmont, just seconds away from becoming the first Thoroughbred in twenty-one years to win the Triple Crown. The book ends with Tiznow's victory in the 2000 Breeder's Cup Classic and the death of his eighty-three-year-old owner, Cecilia Straub-Rubens, three days later.
In between, Thoroughbred owners "spent $510,834,975 on 8,779 yearlings at auctions in the United States in hopes that one of them was the right horse for the 2002 Triple Crown."
The author writes primarily of the owners and trainers, by turns foolish, determined, and hopeful, and some of whom were real S.O.B.s. One of the prominent players is the trainer D. Wayne Lucas, who won the first two races in the Triple Crown in 1999, and then won the third leg in 2000. He is also one of the aforementioned S.O.B.s---one might even call him the Patton of Thoroughbred training. I finished this book with a tremendous admiration (although not liking) for Lucas, especially for winning the 2000 Belmont with a mediocre horse and sheer tactical brilliance. The author is still kicking himself for not betting on Lucas's horse in that race. It would have been his fifth winner on a Pick-Six ticket.
"The Race for the Triple Crown" is rich in the detail of what it takes to purchase a Thoroughbred at auction (lots of money, lots of testosterone, and lots of research). It portrays the agony and ecstasy of owning, training, and riding a potential Triple Crown horse. Here is the true story of the relationship between D. Wayne Lucas and Charismatic's jockey, Chris Antley. Here's what it feels like to try and outbid a Maktoum at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Here are the reasons why you shouldn't plan a celebratory dinner in advance of a Thoroughbred race. Here is Bob Baffert, "intoning, `Houston, we got a problem' into the microphone at the 1996 Preakness when his horse Cavonnier was on his way to a fourth-place finish."
This is an absolutely riveting story for readers who are already somewhat familiar with Thoroughbred racing. I loved it. However, I disagree with the cover blurb that says it is "a delight for both aficionado and novice." If you're looking for a starter book on Thoroughbred racing, try "Secretariat: The Making of a Champion" by William Nack, or "Seabiscuit: An American Legend" by Laura Hillenbrand. "The Race for the Triple Crown" has so much insider detail that a newcomer to racing might become totally confused if he or she doesn't already recognize some of the players, e.g. Pat Day, More Than Ready, Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Jenine Sahadi, and The Deputy (for starters).
I had just come from reading Laura Hillenbrand's "Seabiscuit" so I was very much looking forward to this book, especially gven Hillenbrand's own glowing review right here. The Race for the Triple Crown thus stands as a huge disappointment for me. Drape is, after all, a newspaper sportswriter, and this book is written just like it's one long newspaper column. It's all one note - informational - with no attempt to generate any kind of feeling behind its words. If what you're interested in is a detailed description of the people and horses involved in the 1999-2000 thoroughbred season then this book is what you want. But if you want something that's a good *story* and that gives you the excitement of horse racing, you won't find it here.