A fast-paced, fetchingly detailed, wide-angled view of the world of horse breeding-and-racing—and another lively illustration of Smiley's industrious literary work-ethic and gift for transmuting the products of her obviously extensive research into compelling fiction. The encyclopedic story—similar in structure and rhythm to such earlier Smiley successes as A Thousand Acres and the comic romp Moo—spans two years (1997–99) and various Kentucky, California, and foreign locales occupied and frequented by the performers, trainers, moneymen, and aficionados thrust together by their common passion for the sport of kings. West Coast multimillionaire Kyle Tompkins, for example, bankrolls the development of can't-miss racehorse Limitless, honed to competitive perfection by skilled trainer Farley Brown and Farley's ardent prot‚g‚e and assistant trainer Joy Gorham. Several other groupings of characters (human and animal) shed varying light—rather as in a Robert Altman film—on such rituals of the sport as auctioning horses, doctoring and “birthing” and betting on them, and, in several cases, seeking some form of ultimate communion or identification with them. Some of the more intriguing of Smiley’s many characters include adulterous Westchester County matron Rosalind Maybrick (and her petulant Jack Russell terrier Eileen), 60-ish free spirit Elizabeth Zada (who claims she can read horses' minds), preadolescent Audrey Schmidt (whose love for equine creatures may or may not stimulate similar feelings for teenaged jockey Roberto Acevedo, and—in the neatest surprise—veteran gelding Justa Bob (to whose impulses and even thoughts we are made privy), whose excellent track record and stud-worthiness fortuitously affect his life span. The anthropomorphism occasionally verges on feyness (“In reviewing his life after . . . [Justa Bob] developed a painful crack in his right hoof front wall . . . ). But there are few such missteps, and in general the story prances along right smartly. Several horses here are given such names as Nureyev, Lorenzo de Medici, and Ivan Boesky. If one named Jane Smiley ever shows up in the racing form, you might just want to bet the farm on her.