The story of an heiress, her horse and the jockey who rode it to glory.
Respected horse-racing expert and writer Ours (Man O’ War: A Legend Like Lightning, 2007), who worked for the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, chronicles the life of Marion duPont, heiress to the family’s fortune made from their gunpowder and chemicals business. The plucky woman grew up on James Madison’s estate at Montpelier with a passion for horses, especially for hunting horses and the steeplechase races for which an elite breed of horse is trained to run. Battleship was smaller than many of his peers in the long races characterized by jumping over hedges and fences. Bruce Hobbs, whose father, Reg, drove him to and sometimes seemingly beyond his abilities, was just a teenager when he rode Battleship to glory as he and the undersized horse, the offspring of the legendary Man O’ War, won the Grand National steeplechase in Liverpool, England, becoming the first American horse to do so. Ours clearly has a great deal of admiration for her subject. The quality of writing in the book wavers, and the author does not always convince that her subject matter is as vital as she thinks it is, but she shines when writing about the world of horses (“his attitude and movements speak his history, springing from everything he was bred to be, showing all he has learned and failed to learn, deciding the remaining course of his life”). She ably evokes a time when horse racing was not only the sport of kings, but captured the global imagination of millions.
For horse-racing fans, an adequate follow-up to the author’s previous book and a companion for Lauren Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit (2001).