16 April 2008

In the winner's circle at Castleton Lyons

OK, I'll admit it. I think it's a fine thing that racetrack reading has its own award. At last, I have a way to work racing into all those mundane, little conversations at library conference buffets. (Amazing but true: if you simply say the words "book award," librarians will stop poking shrimp with their forks and listen to you.) But sadly, media coverage of the award has been rather sparse. Where's the hoopla? the glitz? the behind-the-scenes drama?

It turns out, it's here at Turf Luck. T.D. Thornton, author of Not by a Longshot, has graciously replied to my inquiry about his experience at the Castleton Lyons-Thoroughbred Times Book Award ceremony; here's his description of the event:

No, I don’t mind sharing about the CL/T’Times book award ceremony with your blog readers. Thanks very much for asking. The whole experience was a blast.

As a New Englander who had never previously been to Lexington, it was impressive to see how everyone’s lives are so involved and intertwined with the Thoroughbred, all across the board. My only comparable frame of reference is Saratoga, and Lexington is like Saratoga on steroids. Everywhere you go—bars, restaurants, the rental car place at the airport, the front desk in hotels—the talk revolves around racing and breeding. I happen to be married to a horse-crazed wife, and within our first 15 minutes of driving aimlessly around the outskirts of Lexington to check out the wide, open paddocks, she said, “Can we ditch Boston and move here?” The girl might be on to something…

As for the main event—after an enjoyable weekend betting my brains out at Keeneland—the Monday book awards ceremony was held at a cocktail-party setting in a well-appointed room above the historic stallion barn at Castleton Lyons. The farm is a beautiful 1,200-acre spread on Iron Works Pike in the heart of horse country, and its signature stone castle (visible when you fly into Lexington airport) and massive front gates (featured in a number of horse racing films) lent an aura of awe and nobility to the whole experience.

After about an hour of mingling, each author (alphabetical order and asked beforehand) spoke for five minutes about his or her book. I consider Bill Nack and Rachel Pagones pretty classy company, and I felt privileged just to be in the starting gate with them as finalists for the award. After the writers had their say, Shane Ryan (his dad, the late Dr. Tony Ryan, was extremely passionate about racing and literature, and had inaugurated the award last year before he died) read the winner from a sealed envelope—Academy Awards-style.

As luck would have it, I heard “Not by a Long Shot” called out in Shane’s classic Irish brogue, and the next 90 minutes were pretty much a jubilant blur.

I do know that Mr. Nack was the first person at my side to say congrats, which I’ll never forget (a year earlier, I had cold-called Bill to see if he’d write a blurb for Long Shot, which he graciously did). The next thing I know, legendary sports broadcaster Dick Enberg was shaking hands with me (I was so respectfully stunned that I think I called him “Mr. Enberg” about four times in 30 seconds).

Author T.D. Thornton with Dick Enberg

It’s a few days later, and I’m still walking on air, just trying to appreciate the whole experience. Aside from the prestige and honor, the CL/T’Times award is accompanied by a generous cash prize, and I plan to donate a portion of the money to organizations that support two of the cornerstone subjects of Not by a Long Shot—racehorse welfare and assistance for disabled jockeys.

Congratulations, Mr. Thornton! And thanks much for sharing. I can't wait to see what effect the words "stallion barn" have on the buffet line.

Note: An excerpt from Not by a Longshot, is currently available at Thoroughbred Times; it appears at the end of the article.


Superfecta said...

I'd been wondering how the event went, great wrap-up!

Congrats to Thornton again.

John said...

Great stuff Tracey, T.D. is such a nice guy.

Teresa said...

Totally cool. Excellent post. I'm reading the book now...

QQ said...

Hey, the kudos all go to Mr. Thornton, who is indeed a nice guy. And boy, can he write!

Don Reed said...

Sorry I hadn't seen this sooner (the inspiration to go to Google Images hadn't happened soon enough).

What a great book Not By is, and the experience of reading it, was.

Good luck, T.D. I'm disappointed that you aren't the next Monmouth race caller. I figured your friend would have been an effective advocate of such a promotion. One more racing disappointment, I guess.

Be well,

Don Redd