11 March 2009

Monograph Mile: race to posterity

Excitement is mounting here at Turf Luck: the entries have been announced, and at last it's time to wager on the Monograph Mile! Though you'll not find this "race" on the NTRA calendar, it is, to my mind, one of the most important competitions in thoroughbred racing, for the Monograph Mile -- or, as it's more commonly known, the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award -- immortalizes our sport in a way no single race can. Now in its third year, the award is presented by Castleton Lyons and Thoroughbred Times to honor the best book published about some aspect of the Thoroughbred industry. Here at Turf Luck, we stumbled a bit over its previous hyphenated name and dubbed it The Monograph Mile. "Monograph" because librarians like to say the word monograph. And "Mile" because writing a book is definitely a route, not a sprint.

Though I tend towards hyperbole now and again, I don't think I'm exaggerating the importance of the award for the health of our sport. Sure, snazzy Web 2.0 sites and free past performances may be one way to draw in new fans, but website archives can vanish with a click of a corporate mouse, disappearing from cyberspace like dust in the wind.

But books -- books have a way of living on and on and on. Sometimes displayed prominently on coffee tables, sometimes on dusty library shelves, sometimes in the 10-cent bin at the Goodwill, but nonetheless they endure, the ultimate mobile device, no batteries required, little time-traveling pieces of history and storytelling that can carry the best of our sport into the hands of future generations.

If you doubt the ability of books to transcend space and time, think on this: a copy of last year's Castleton Lyons-Thoroughbred Times Book Award winner, T. D. Thornton's excellent Not by a Longshot, is owned by the Stratford District Centennial Library, located "in the heart of Taranaki" which, apparently, is somewhere in NEW ZEALAND. And at the moment, the library's copy of Thornton's description of a year at Suffolk Downs is checked out, due back on March 24. Meanwhile, this same library doesn't own any books by Bill Nack, whose Ruffian was a finalist for the award last year. And there's not a single title about Secretariat listed in the library's catalog.

This is the power of awards, my friend.

So it is with much anticipation that we here at Turf Luck gear up for the naming of this year's award winner. Seven semi-finalists for the Award have been named, and Thoroughbred Times has done a stellar job in producing a one-sheet PDF file describing the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award, the semi-finalists, and the judges. Three finalists will be announced sometime next week, and the winner will be named on April 5. Tomorrow, I'll try to handicap the field, and you'll see: it's a diverse bunch, and this year's winner is hard to predict.

But today, I simply hope to encourage you -- especially if you live in a town that actually has a racetrack at the moment -- to print out the list of semi-finalists and hand it to your local librarian. Few librarians can resist the siren call of The Book Award. Caldecott, Nebula, Quill - it makes no matter. We're suckers for these things.

So let your friendly neighborhood librarian know what you care about. If it's too much to actually talk to the Bun, e-mail the library. Say something like this: "I know you want to buy another copy of the latest James Patterson novel. But please consider purchasing one of these. Racing is important to me." Feel free to wax lyrical about racing books that you've enjoyed or to discuss how racing affects your local economy. Words like "well-written" will get the librarian's attention. But for god's sake, mention the award.

Future generations will thank you.


Tweetin Tony said...

books are great, i love smoking weed at night while i chill out and read books.!

Keith - Triple Dead Heat said...

Thanks for the reminder...I'm still catching up on 2008's reading list!

Ah well, the more the merrier. There's never enough good books - especially about racing.

Anonymous said...

The only book I have read from this year's list is "My Guy Barbaro." I enjoyed it, but "Not By a Long Shot" blows it out of the water. That book is easily among my top 5 to 10 favorites of all time. With that as a measuring stick, I'm guessing "Barbaro" won't make the final cut.

Also, I have seen the the author of "Twoey and the Goat" the last two years at the Michigan Horse Expo. I didn't have time to speak with her, but she seemed very friendly.

gib. said...

Thanks for the inspiration to push myself away from this computer and do some reading. I've printed the list of semi-finalists and will begin my search at the local library.

As for the finalists: it was standard practice for a Dick Francis novel to travel with me on tape whenever I took off on a decent length journey solo. Of course, I out distanced the library's supply or his novel. I don't know which. SILKS sounds familiar, but they all seem to run together. I'll have about a six hour drive to the Bluegrass Stakes. I take SILKS, or something with me . . . replay aren't an issue with my memory.

I was thinking of QQ last evening. A couple internet handicapping friends and I met at Mountaineer, a midway point to assemble. I bundled up expecting extreme conditions, but determined to experience the year's first live racing experience in the elements.

We were treated to crisp but comfortable evening on the patio. We sucked Iron City, smoked cigars and hoped that 70/1 shots wouldn't crush our exactas. The beer was smooth, the cigars were delicious and 70/1, 30/1 horses sent me home broke but smiling.