05 December 2007

The Monograph Mile

While more sophistiated horseplayers are already building virtual stables of promising 2-year olds for next year's Derby Trail, here at Turf Luck, I've got my eye on a different competition -- the Castleton Lyons-Thoroughbred Times Book Award. The award recognizes the best book about thoroughbred racing published during the past year. Nominations for the award close on December 31, and the award will be announced in spring.

I suspect that the Quinella Castle is the only place on earth where there is wagering of any sort on the Castleton Lyons Thoroughbred Times Award, although around here we simply call it the Monograph Mile. "Monograph" because librarians like to say the word monograph. And as for the "Mile" designation: writing a book is definitely a route, not a sprint.

The list of contenders for the inaugural Monograph Mile (aka the 2006 semifinalists) is still available on the Thoroughbred Times website, so interested readers can do their own handicapping if they wish. Here's how I analyzed the race:

Though I was inordinately fond of Bloodlines: A Horse-Racing Anthology edited by Maggie Estep and Jonathan Starr, I suspected the short story collection wouldn't go the distance. I was also quite enamoured of Bill Barich's A Fine Place to Daydream, a sibling to classic runner Laughing in the Hills, but a book about a year of Irish racing didn't seem likely to fare well on the course in Lexington. And, while I liked Joe Drape's Black Maestro, a well-researched look at the life of Jimmy Winkfield, I worried that it followed too closely on the heels of Wink, Ed Hotaling's 2005 Winkfield biography, to capture the attention of the judges.

So in the end, my money was on Man o'War: A Legend Like Lightning by Dorothy Ours. From the venerable stables of St Martins Press, the book was authored by a former staffer at the National Museum of Racing and received a starred review in Booklist.

However, in the stretch, it was all Black Maestro; the sheer drama of Winkfield's life and a great ride from the experienced Drape simply dominated the other runners. A relative longshot, Patrick Smithwick's Racing My Father, got up for one of the runners-up slots, along with my pick, Man o'War.

Sadly, the win by Black Maestro led to two weeks of dishwashing for me (yes, these are the kinds of bets we take at Turf Luck Wagering, Inc.) But no matter who wins this year's contest, the award is a real boon for racing fans, I think, as it brings some attention to the best writing in the field. And of course, at this time of year, the list of last year's semi-finalists might offer some nice holiday gift-giving ideas.

Because it's getting late, I'll have to post my virtual stable for the 2007 Monograph Mile tomorrow. Stay tuned!


Teresa said...

Somehow I completely missed this post last week...how nice to be reminded of all the books I wanted to read last year and didn't quite get to.

And I am eagerly waiting for the list of this year's nominees--May the Horse Be With You, maybe? What else??? Don't keep us waiting too long...