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The Race for the Triple Crown Hardcover – April 9, 2001

3.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 261 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; 1 edition (April 9, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871137852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871137852
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,914,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By ealovitt HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 26, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Race for the Triple Crown" is not in the usual run of amiable puff jobs about Thoroughbreds and their owners. For one thing, the author is an award-winning sportswriter for the "New York Times." For another, he is a dedicated horse-player---Damon Runyon; bettin' on da gee-gees; bookies; "The Daily Racing Form"---that sort of scene. Finally and perhaps most importantly, he owned and raced a Quarter Horse named Oh Desperado, who turned out to be a whiz at dressage.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
About two thirds of way through this book I just gave up and skimmed the rest. This book is filled with page after page of names - names of horses, owners, jockeys, trainers, and others. There are so many names that it's impossible to keep track of them all (one of the major deficiencies of the book is the lack of an index; with this many people and horses, plus the way that Drape jumps around from subject to subject in an almost random manner at times, an index is an absolute necessity). What's really lacking from the book is any kind of excitement. Drape has managed to take something that I thought was inherently exciting and make it as dry as dirt. I think it was about page 180 (out of 261) before he even gave a play-by-play of an actual horse race!
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Racing fans have heard it many times before...There have been only eleven winners of the Triple Crown. Sir Barton was the first in 1919 and Affirmed, the last, in 1978. Eddie Arcaro won two Triple Crowns, one on Whirlaway in 1941 and then on Citation in 1948. There was a drought of twenty-five years between Citation's sweep and the coming of Secretariat in 73'. Secretariat is moving like a tremendous machine... So that's an overview of racing's classics. Now for something meatier...Thank you Joe Drape! Finally someone has gone beyond the legendary telling of this story and put it under a microscope. Drape's portrait of the Triple Crown is like a Robert Altman film with people and horses, owners, trainers, jockeys, everyone weaving in and out in search of victory, or at least a ticket to Louisville. The book goes happily beyond the soundbytes of trainers like Neil Drysdale and Todd Pletcher and delivers us a story that is intense, hopeful, sometimes funny, sometimes disappointing, but always interesting.
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Format: Hardcover
Joe Drape takes the reader to the top of the horse racing field with clarity and tight prose worthy of a master storyteller.
Insightful behind the scenes coverage makes you often forget that is a true story about the fight to win the run for the roses and the glory that is the Triple Crown.
Drape covers all that and more in this gripping read. A true delight.
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Format: Paperback
Drape took on the task that all of us outside the world of racing should be grateful, that is, giving us an inside look at the horses and connections that take a 2 year old colt from Derby wannabe to Triple Crown contender. What I found disappointing was the lack of detail in the races themselves. Drape sufficiently builds up the Derby and details the race, but the other prep races, Preakness and Belmont are slighted. I guess I am used to William Nack's detailed descriptions of Secretariat's races. You won't learn anything new about Lukas or Baffert here that you haven't already read. You will at least learn a little about Todd Pletcher, Neil Drysdale and Jenine Sahadi.
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