Tomorrow, June 9, 2018, Justify has a chance to become a Triple Crown winner. In honor of that possibility, I am presenting three book reviews today. All three discuss this difficult feat. Two are non-fiction accounts of my favorite Triple Crown winner, Secretariat. The third is a work of fiction by Felix Francis.
There is something for everyone in these three books. First, the novel is a good mystery full of the Francis penchant for showing the human element. Next, the general history and wonderful photos in Secretariat by Raymond G. Wolfe Jr. is perfect for the many sports fans stirred up by the quest for the Triple Crown. Finally, Secretariat: The Making of a Champion by William Nack is geared toward those with a serious interest in the horse industry. Enjoy one or all of these books and tune in to watch the Belmont tomorrow to see if Justify becomes just the 13th winner of the Triple Crown.
Triple Crown The Novel
Felix Francis is the son of Dick Francis. The two collaborated on a few books before the latter’s death. Triple Crown, published in 2016 is a crime novel involving the Triple Crown races in America. The novel is written in the style made famous by the elder Francis.
Jeff Hinkley is an agent for the British Horseracing Authority. He travels to the United States on an exchange program to advise the Federal Anti-Corruption in Sports Agency (FACSA). However, his true purpose is to identify the individual within FACSA tipping off horse trainers to upcoming raids.
The action continues at the Kentucky Derby where problems intensify with several horses unable to start in the famous race. Francis conveys the atmosphere surrounding the Derby to the reader. Visitors to Louisville, Kentucky can visit both Churchill Downs and Wagner’s. Even those just watching the race on television can relate to his description of the crowds.
The plot moves from crime to murder mystery as the races move along the legs of the Triple Crown. Hinkley goes undercover as a groom. Readers glimpse life on the backside through the prose. There are a few twists in this tale of government corruption. The racing industry is not painted in a particularly positive light either. However, the writing does convey a sense of the workings of the industry. The fast paced novel is entertaining. The focus is on the players in the game more than the actual races themselves.
A wonderful testimonial in pictures as much as text is Secretariat by Raymond G. Woolfe Jr. The first edition appeared in 1974 with the update including a forward by jockey Ron Turcotte released in 2001. I love this book. The photos cover the story from start to finish. Both he human element and the horse are detailed.
The text begins with the famous coin toss to decide ownership. The story follows the entire life of the horse. Additionally, the book includes updates on the humans involved with the Triple Crown winner. Also shared with the reader are several charts. Along with the racing charts, the list of progeny, and the pedigree is Secretariat’s training log. Every activity is recorded from January 20, 1972 when he arrived at the barn to November 12, 1973, his last day at the track.
This combination coffee table book and historical account is a great tribute and record of Secretariat. Some pictures are in color but many are in black and white. The challenge of photographing the 31 length victory in the Belmont is evident. No other horses were in sight at the widest angle. The first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, Secretariat was an amazing horse.
Secretariat: The Making of a Champion
William Nack only has a few pictures in his historical account, but one is my favorite of all time. Taken from the infield the viewer has a true sense of just how far in front Secretariat was in the Belmont. The final leg of the Triple Crown.
Secretariat: The Making of a Champion is a detailed look at all the parties involved in the making of the horse. In this account, background on the breeders involved includes so much more than just the coin toss. Nack gives great inside information to this important side of the industry. Interesting details on the principle breeders involved are a major part of the book. Indeed, the story of Penny Chenery Tweedy is conveyed alongside that of Secretariat. Furthermore, Seth Hancock’s syndication of Secretariat and the involvement of the Ogden Phipps are important parts of the history.
Additionally, the trainer Lucien Laurin, groom Ed Sweat, the primary jockey Ron Turcotte and the exercise rider Jimmy Gaffney are involved in this well documented biography. Each provides perspective. Thus, Nack tells the Triple Crown winner’s story through the stories of the many humans caring for him. Finally, Nack does an incredible job of describing the racing action. His play-by-play of the Belmont will have those readers who were lucky enough to witness the historical race nodding their heads, yes, yes.