|Pimlico in Maryland, home of the Preakness Stakes|
Racehorses are creatures of beauty, and I am old enough to have had the pleasure to see Secretariat cross that finish line as it happened––on TV, of course. And though I was in Baltimore when the second race at Pimlico took place, I also watched it from afar. This is a great time of year to read a racing story, as I'll Have Another, winner of the Kentucky Derby, goes into this Saturday's Preakness as a contender for the Triple Crown. There hasn't been a Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
One very enjoyable mystery is Full Mortality by Sasscer Hill. It is about Nikki Latrelle, a jockey who finds herself at the scene of two separate instances of murder at a track. She has a habit of going to the racetrack when she has insomnia. This habit has landed her in hot water and jeopardized her livelihood because, naturally, being in the wrong place at the wrong time too often leads to warranted suspicion.
Nikki works out of the Laurel Park racetrack in Laurel, Maryland. She has worked her way up to a reputation as an excellent jockey. The night before she is due to ride a possible winner in the next day's $200,000 Venus Sweepstakes, she takes a past-midnight trip out to see the horse named Gilded Cage. She surprises a man who runs out of the stall and knocks her over, and finds "Gildy" dead.
Nikki's main job is as an exercise rider for Jim Ravinsky, who is a trainer at Laurel. He had given her a chance when no one else would. Fortunately, Jim still has faith in Nikki and believes what she says. There are other trainers and barns at the Park and it is at one of these that Nikki believes there is some skulduggery. When a second horse is found dead, along with a dead jockey, and they are discovered once again by Nikki, she is denied access to the park.
|Big Brown, photo by Louisville Courier-Journal|
|I'll Have Another and Bodemeister in the Derby|
Condi, we were lucky to have the chance to see Secretariat run; some of Big Red's track records still stand, and he is ranked second only to Man o' War on Blood-Horse Magazine's list of Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century. Including Secretariat, only 11 horses have won the U.S. Triple Crown, and I'll Have Another will need a big serving of luck to beat Bodemeister and Creative Cause in the Preakness, the second of the Triple Crown races, this weekend. I doubt he's up to it.
Exclusively Equine, where the Thoroughbred Legends series and some of Barbara D. Livingston's beautiful books of photography are available.
|Dick Francis steeplechasing|
|Shoemaker on racing great Spectacular Bid|
Good luck if you're betting on the Preakness tomorrow. Nothing besides death and taxes is a sure thing, but one of the books we've mentioned today might be a winner for you.