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Book Review

Fix Six
by Noel Michaels
Xlibris, November 2007, 241 pages trade paperback

Due to the fact that it owes its very existence to gambling, more than any other sport, Thoroughbred horse racing unfortunately includes cheating throughout its long and colorful history. Whether the technique involves illegally improving or worsening a horse's chances at victory, fixing the outcome of a race, or manipulating the tote system, the ultimate goal is the same: to cash in a winning ticket that would have normally lost or paid a lot less and to pull off the scam without getting caught. In his first work of fiction, New York turfwriter and OTB in-house TV handicapper Noel Michaels collected many of these heists and artfully pieced them together in "Fix Six", a comic novel that allows the sport of racing to laugh at itself.

Michaels, in a style reminiscent of the recent series of comedy films that spoof many other films at the same time, finds a way to drop a group of old college buddies into what is essentially racing's underworld. The story starts slowly, as Michaels introduces the characters as the failures they all are, and brings them together as they try to pull off the "Fix Six", much like what happened in real life at the 2002 Breeders' Cup. The story reads like a rehashing of that embarrassing incident with very few deviations at first. However, just when you think they're home free and pulled off the scam of the century, things do not go to plan and suddenly they are fugitives trying to escape the long arm of the law, and you find that the story was just getting started.

Long-time followers of racing will quickly figure out which real-life characters Michaels is spoofing, as the Fix Six boys make more and more enemies and find themselves trying to escape a vigilante detective from New York, a blood-thirsty mob of exotic dancers, and some of horse racing's criminal element from California. Will they escape this unsavory group of track creatures? Will they get away with all the money? Will they end up behind bars? The final result was not as predictable as one might have expected.

This was a surprisingly entertaining read indeed, as Michaels carefully poked fun at the gamblers and opportunists who all threaten to undermine the integrity of the Sport of Kings. Many of the parodied characters were never brought to justice (either in the courts or within the sport) but are generally regarded as being detrimental to the game. Perhaps being included in this book was the author's way of exposing them without actually naming them.

Fix Six has a list price of $25.99 and is available from Amazon.com.

Rating:     4/5

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