Now that California Chrome's failed attempt at winning a Triple Crown is but a recent memory, many racing fans are looking for ways to keep the history of the Sport of Kings alive.
Have I got the antidote for you.
Richard Sowers, who lives in suburban Atlanta, has spent the last six years, 50 hours per week, researching and writing "The Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes: A Comprehensive History". I am very well aware of Sowers and his professional history, including another seminal book on thoroughbred racing and two works surrounding the NASCAR circuit, among other publications.
Each of his works is well-researched and thoughtful, with no lack of opinions. Why, just the index and bibliography alone took Sowers from Thanksgiving Day of 2012 to April of 2013 to complete, using 17-hour days.
"In addition to the history of each race, chronologically, what I tried to accomplish was the story of the people connected to the horses -- the owners, breeders, trainers, and jockeys," enthused Sowers. "I think I accomplished that."
Indeed he has. After reading "The Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes", I feel I understand the historical roots of this country and beyond from 1867 to the present so much better. Instead of being merely a sketch, this work is more like a Picasso painting. I'll be referring to this book for the next 20 years. I only hope the cover lasts that long.
For example, in perusing the index, I came upon the entry ZZ Top. Being a big fan of the group, I went to page 359 and found that Brad Kelley, a 56-year-old semi-recluse from Franklin, Ky., and worth $1.9 billion, was the owner of 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow and Calumet Farm. His lengthy beard earned him his moniker.
This 528-page book is full of thousands of such references. It is published by McFarland and can be ordered by calling 1-800-253-2187 or going online to www.mcfarlandpub.com. Believe it, this compelling book is well worth the price of $55.
"Another aspect of the book I wanted to emphasize was which horses should be considered truly great," continued Sowers. "Agree or not, there is plenty of food for thought".
As an example, let's just look at the decade from 2000-09. Sowers' list of the best horses of the decade are: 1. Point Given. 2. Curlin. 3. Big Brown. 4. Afleet Alex. 5. Smarty Jones. 6. Rachel Alexandra. 7. Medaglia d'Oro. 8. Bernardini. 9. Barbaro. 10. Street Sense.
Personally, I would have put Curlin above Point Given, moved Smarty Jones up to third, and dropped Big Brown down several slots. But that's the point. It's great to be able to have such a book that can spark such healthy debates such as Sunday Silence versus Easy Goer, or Skip Away against Holy Bull and A.P. Indy, among others, in the 1990's.
These are just a few of the nuggets you'll find in this amazing compilation, a true labor of love. We may not have witnessed our first Triple Crown-winning horse since Affirmed in 1978 this year, but we have a Triple Crown winner of prose in Richard Sowers.
This could be his legacy. But, then again, don't bet against it. He's probably got another yearling in the paddock.
Paul Daley's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org