The Race for the Triple Crown

Joe Drape is an award-winning sportswriter at the New York Times. After Charismatic lost out on his Triple Crown bid in 1999 he decided to follow a year at the races, the ups and downs for this book.

He follows a handful of owners, trainers, and jockeys throughout the year starting the day after the ’99 Belmont up until the following years race.

In between we see everything from the yearling sales, where millionaires usually drastically overpay for racehorses (Drape tells us the highest paid ones rarely turn out) to the various set backs that nearly every team goes through on their way to the Kentucky Derby.

Some of the vignettes are truly fascinating (and a few rather amusing). I came away with a whole new respect for trainer D. Wayne Lucas among others (Bob Baffert was also shockingly sympathetic). It definitely gets you inside the business of racing the way other books on the sport have not.

The major buildup is to the Derby. After Fusaichi Pegasus’s authoritative victory – I thought the Preakness Stakes and Belmont got the short end of the stick. Nonetheless the last third of the book deals with the Triple Crown and you do not leave disappointed.

The book’s major strength is also one of its major weaknesses. It’s too all encompassing and tries to tell too many stories. I had to keep flipping back to remember who certain people were.

Other books in the genre have been better page turners (Seabiscuit, for instance). Still this is a good book to get you in the mood for the few weeks where animals become household names.

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