Apparently, much of the racing world spent yesterday:
- rejoicing in a great day of Derby prep races
- plotting to demonstrate the power of horseplayers to affect wagering pools
- wondering how a syringe can be called a cough drop
Readers who've followed the Monograph Mile preps know that 3 contenders were entered for this, the highest honor in books about Thoroughbreds.
At the post: Silks, jockeyed by veteran Dick Francis enters the gate like a pro while co-author Felix watches intently from the stands. The well-bred The History and Art of 25 Travers with Vic Zast in the irons looks every bit a deserved favorite. The last to load, The Untold Story of Joe Hernandez: The Voice of Santa Anita, sporting a CD shadowroll, is ridden by Rudolph Alvarado, whose only experience is in the quarter horse world of academia, history, and such.
And then, they're off! Francis surges to the lead, engaging readers at the rail with his tale of murder and menace. Around the turn, Zast makes his move, and it's a thing of beauty, his mount powered by memories and art of races past. But look! Alvarado will not be denied! Suddenly, at the sixteenth pole, he pulls out the whip, posting a YouTube video to promote his book.
And under patient urging, Untold Story comes on! Readers hold their breath, tickets clenched tight -- can he reach the leader in time?
Then, suddenly, they're at the wire, and by a head -- it's The Untold Story of Joe Hernandez! Alvarado has scored the upset with a tale five years (and more than 15,000 race calls) in the making!
I'm still breathless from the excitement.
Though I was rooting for Dick and Felix Francis on Silks, I can't help but be impressed by the dedication that led to this victory: Alvarado spent years tracking down sources nationwide, spurred on by a mention of Joe Hernandez in Lauren Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit. For all his popularity as a sportswriter and race announcer, Hernandez lived a life shrouded in mystery -- even his own children had no idea where he was born! -- and it was only through unbridled tenacity that his story has been told.
Below: Rudolph Alvarado, flanked by Shane Ryan and Mark Simon, in the winners circle for the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award. (Thoroughbred Times)
Congratulations to Mr. Alvarado! And for those who want to learn more about this tale of an amazing Latino of an earlier era, autographed copies of The Voice of Santa Anita: The Untold Story of Joe Hernandez are available for a mere $16.47 from www.voiceofsantaanita.com, where you can also find a sample chapter from the book and examples of Herandez race calls dating as far back as the Big 'Cap of 1937.
By the way, the team at Thoroughbred Times (which presents the award along with the folks at Castleton Lyons farm) has done a fabulous job of providing coverage of the Award this year, offering a great pdf of the semi-finalists, and now posting replays of the final stretch including video of Rudolph Alvarado and Vic Zast speaking before the Award presentation. (Peter Williams spoke on behalf of the absent Francis duo.)
And the video offerings don't stop there; awards show addicts may also view judges Audrey Korotkin and Bill Mooney offering opening remarks. I was especially interested in Ms. Korotkin's comments, which noted that this year, the award attracted more publicity, "not just in local paper, but from blogs online..." As the blog that has followed this award since its inception, we at Turf Luck were delighted with this shout-out to the online world.
Budding writers take note: during his opening remarks, Shane Ryan noted that "if anyone would like to do a book about Gio Ponti next year, they'd be more than welcome. It sounds a bit like Seabiscuit: named after an Italian architect, trained by a Frenchman, and owned by a crazy Irishman." I must admit: if someone wrote it, I'd read it!
Yes, once again the Monograph Mile proved to be a satisfying race -- and not a syringe in sight.