"WILD RIDE: The Rise and Tragic Fall of Calumet Farm, Inc., America's Premier Racing Dynasty" by Ann Hagedorn Auerbach

"WILD RIDE: The Rise and Tragic Fall of Calumet Farm, Inc., America's Premier Racing Dynasty"

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An absorbing account of how Kentucky's Calumet Farm, long thoroughbred racing's paramount breeding stable, came a cropper in the 1990s. Drawing on interviews with many of the principals and a voluminous public record, Wall Street Journal correspondent Auerbach provides a generation-spanning chronicle that ranges from the legendary stable's founding by a baking-powder magnate during the early years of the century through its sale at auction in 1992. Owned by the Wright family, Calumet bestrode the sport of kings like a colossus, breeding more Triple Crown winners than any of its rivals and setting the pace in a high-stakes enterprise. In mid-1982, however, Lucille Parker Wright Markey died at 93, and control of the farm passed to a son-in-law, John Thomas (aka J.T.) Lundy, a good-ole-boy local whom the matriarch had treated with all the warmth accorded a poor relation. In piecing together how J.T. managed to bankrupt a prospering institution less than a decade after gaining the whip hand, Auerbach leaves little doubt that he was never up to the job intellectually or psychologically. The arriviste squire of Calumet used his status to wheel and deal on a fast global track during much of the 1980s. Backed by international bankers, Wall Street money men, mobsters (including a couple of John Gotti's capos), and nouveau fiche investors clamoring for a piece of the action, he took an early lead in his run for the roses, but changes in federal tax law, overbreeding throughout the industry, a crushing debt burden, and other handicaps brought him down. Lundy's fall put paid to Calumet. An era ended with the dispersal of the farm's bloodstock and the property's acquisition by an outsider. A sorry tale, well told, that lends new meaning to the phrase ""riding for a fail.

Pub Date: June 8th, 1994
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Henry Holt