Sham: Great Was Second Best

Sometimes the second fiddle gets to play in the first chair. Alydar finally beat Affirmed (albeit through disqualification) in the Travers; Easy Goer vanquished his nemesis Sunday Silence in the Belmont. Though often on the losing end of the rivalry, both Alydar and Easy Goer have, over the years, garnered nearly as much ink as…

Bill Heller on Jose Santos: Above It All

The life of a jockey would, inherently, seem to have more than enough drama to make its narrative compelling. Small of stature, often from modest (at best) beginnings, the men who make their living on horseback daily risk injury or worse, fighting their own biology to keep their weights low and their strength high. Add…

The poetry of Kentucky Derby

“One of my earliest memories,” recalls poet Andrea Cohen, “is Dreamland. When one is going off to Dreamland, one is riding a stallion.  When I was very young, before going off to sleep, my brothers and I would say, ‘See you in Dreamland,’ and we’d describe the horse we’d be on.” That’s about the closest…

Steve O’Brien’s Bullet Work

Steve O’Brien picked up the phone on Sunday, April 10th, the day after the Wood Memorial, and before I finished identifying myself, he asked, “What happened to Uncle Mo?” O’Brien is a racing fan. He grew up in Grand Island, Nebraska, and broke his racing maiden at Fonner Park.  “I first went with my family…

Juliet Harrison’s Track Life in Saratoga Springs

Photographer Juliet Harrison describes herself as “your typical horse crazy kid.” Perhaps atypically, she knows exactly when that horse craziness hit. “When I was five years old,” she recalled recently by phone from her home in the Hudson Valley, “I had a babysitter who gave me a picture book of horse breeds. I still have…

Thinking about Lord of Misrule

In 2010, my racing and literary worlds collided spectacularly when Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule came out of nowhere to win the National Book Award, catapulting both book and author right into this country’s literary conversation and splendidly blending books and the backstretch. If you’re a literary type, you can’t ignore the National Book Award…