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Horse of a Different Color: A Tale of Breeding Geniuses, Dominant Females, and the Fastest Derby Winner Since Secretariat
by Jim Squires
from Public Affairs, 320 pages hardcover

Horse of a Different Color is author Jim Squires' autobiographical journey as a small-time horse breeder in Kentucky, starting when he made the dramatic career change from editor of the Chicago Tribune as a result of a management shakeup. In a very entertaining, free-flowing writing style, Squires flawlessly paints the picture of a very slow frustrating start in the business, full of disappointments. Then the tide finally turns his way. culminating in the ultimate prize for anybody involved in racing: winning the Kentucky Derby. For the racing fan who may not be too familiar with the breeding side of the business, Squires educates the reader with his explanations of the day to day operations at a typical Kentucky farm, and how the sales auction system works. He also explains how "the dominant female", his wife Mary Anne, often worked against him as well as she worked for him, but for the most part kept him out of trouble.

Having accomplished this end, the focus shifts to Monarchos, the grey colt who resulted from his decision to pair Maria's Mon with his broodmare Regal Band, and his connections: owner Jack Oxley, trainer John Ward, and jockey Jorge Chavez. He demonstrates how Monarchos' team may not be as high-profile in the media as chief rival Point Given's connections, but in retrospect deserved to win just as much as the highly touted Derby favorite. Through day-by-day accounts of his training and detailed descriptions of each of his races, it is clear that Monarchos was well on his way to greatness. Squires shows a strong emotional attachment to the horse, despite no longer being his owner, and appeared to take it personally whenever he felt that his colt was being ignored by the press. When the first Saturday in May of 2001 came along and Monarchos crossed the wire first at Churchill Downs, finally he had been vindicated. The horse, the small farm where he came from, and his breeder would be ignored no longer.

Anybody who watched the 2001 Kentucky Derby and enjoyed watching the 10-1 underdog Monarchos beat such a highly regarded field, including Point Given, in near-record time would get a better appreciation of what they had seen by reading Horse of a Different Color. Squires' witty prose makes the book very difficult to put away as he takes you for a ride and makes you feel the same emotions as he did as it all happened just over a year ago. It would also be strongly recommended to new fans who can get a quick lesson in both the breeding business and Derby Fever in one convenient and entertaining package.

Horse of a Different Color has a list price of $26.00 and is available from Amazon.com for $18.20.

Rating:     4/5

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