A wonderfully expressive love story between Mooney, who writes for The Blood-Horse magazine, and that permanent adolescent of the horse world, the thoroughbred.
Mooney made the acquaintance of the racetrack through the inspired guidance of her grandmother, May-May, who knew everything there was to know about the track, having spent hours as a youth draped over the fence at Pimlico watching the horses and cut her teeth at the trotting tracks in Maryland. She gave the bug wholesale to her granddaughter, but when May-May died, so did Mooney’s attachment to the sport. In a graceful, forward style, Mooney traces her return to the racetrack to a broadcast of the Kentucky Derby she happened on while shopping at Radio Shack. Immersing herself in that world once again, she brings it, with great respect, to the reader. The elusive romance of the trainer’s life is typified by the trailblazing John Nerud and the intuitive, freewheeling Bob Baffert. Mooney charts the careers of two peerless riders, Angel Cordero Jr. and Donna Barton; salutes hotwalkers and grooms like Cleevie, who knows how to make a horse shine in bloom; and nods at the gamblers and the handicappers. She makes it clear she’s on the side of the risk-takers, for “to urge a horse to come into second or third seemed to run counter to our entire relationship.” There is the dreadful downside of drugged horses, drugged jockeys, and fixed races, but there is also the sheer glory of the animals, the “playful, moody, skittish, and temperamental, easily distracted and even more easily bored” thoroughbreds, which also happen to be sensitive, elegant, and impossible to tame.
A fine introduction to the racetrack that’s also a dazzlingly successful blind date, deeply and unexpectedly satisfying, between readers and thoroughbreds. (b&w photos throughout)