27 March 2007

Derby reading: The 10 Best Kentucky Derbies

Today's beautiful weather, coupled with a weekend trip to the track (hooray!) has done wonders for the mood around the Castle. I feel rather like Punxsutawney Phil (who also spends a lot of time at the library) coming out of his burrow, blinking at the light. After seeing my shadow at lunch, I realized: less than six weeks till the Derby!

Predictably, I picked up a copy of The Ten Best Kentucky Derbies from that crack team at The Blood-Horse. It's just the thing to remind a reader how fabulous and unpredictable the first Saturday in May can be.

Published in 2005, The 10 Best Kentucky Derbies is based on a list that first appeared in The Blood-Horse in 2000. The selections were made by Bob Adair, Mike Battaglia, Steve Haskin, Joe Hirsch, and Jim McKay -- a fine, experienced lot of Derby watchers. So, which years did the illustrious panel select?

  • 1973: Secretariat

  • 1971: Canonero II

  • 1957: Iron Liege

  • 1978: Affirmed

  • 1948: Citation

  • 1933: Brokers Tip

  • 1924: Black Gold

  • 1915: Regret

  • 1987: Alysheba

  • 1941: Whirlaway
Lists almost always seem to generate debate, but a veritable stable of writers takes on the task of providing the background to justify these selections. Whether it's Steve Haskin describing the unlikely tale of The Caracas Cannonball or Edward L. Bowen outlining Regret's role in the Derby's success, the writing is universally clear and detailed. Descriptions of the climate of racing at the time of each race provides historical context for each remarkable race --a real boon for those of us who were born too late. And the chart of each race is included

The enthusiasm of the authors is contagious: I feel myself coming down with a case of Derby Fever. Heck, I'm ready to play a Street Sense-Birdbird quinella!