The offspring of a journalist tells of equine bloodlines and, not incidentally, his own family history.
Growing up, newcomer Sullivan, son of quirky sportswriter Mike Sullivan, was never a sports fan. Not long before he died, his father recalled for him the astonishing beauty of Secretariat when that great horse took the Derby a generation ago. The father’s reverie awakened something within the son. The result is an entertaining, often erudite history of horse matters beginning even before the animal became friendly to mankind. Sullivan fils reviews the use of the stud book and matters eugenic, both equine and human. He traces the lore of American thoroughbred racing from Britain, through Virginia to the Blue Grass State (which is blessed with favorable limestone geology) and on to Churchill Downs. Virtually all horsehood is considered, from hobby horses to full-blooded Arabians, horses in war and peace, literature and art, glory and commerce, history and fable, horses as symbol and horses as presence, horses bound for pasture and horses destined for the boneman. The preparation and auction of yearlings, the art and practice of training and the industry of racing all receive avid attention as we are taken to the author’s old Kentucky home and, finally, to Belmont. Sullivan is sad to note “that all this horseracing business is about the rich, for the rich are hideous. There is nothing they cannot ruin.” The diverting facts and opinion comprise very agreeable reportage. It is unreined information, cantering or tantivy. But it is not simply a love letter to horseflesh; it is a warm elegy for a man, a father, as well.
Reflections from horse country about equine bloodlines, as well as the author’s own. (20 b&w illustrations)