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Book Review

Native Dancer
The Grey Ghost, Hero of a Golden Age
by John Eisenberg
Warner Books
272 pages hardcover

When television was in its infancy, a big grey horse with an indomitable will to win became the first equine television star. Standing out from the browns, bays, and chestnuts on the black and white screens, he was easy to see and his habit of making a tremendous late charge to win made him exciting to watch. Native Dancer is one of the greatest race horses of all time with a record of 21 wins in 22 starts and was named a champion in each of the three years he raced, including Horse of the Year in 1954. Off the track he was a huge success as a stallion and as a sire of sires with such sons as Raise a Native who in turn sired Alydar and Mr. Prospector and his grandson Northern Dancer from his daughter Natalma.

With such credentials as these, it is easy to see why Maryland turf writer John Eisenberg selected Native Dancer as the subject of his new book, "Native Dancer: The Grey Ghost, Hero of a Golden Age." Eisenberg brings his subject to life with detailed descriptions of his personality, his races, his life off the track, and his human connections. All are covered in great detail and an entertaining style. You really feel like you know all the people involved with the horse and most especially the horse himself.

From the thrilling highs of his undefeated 2-year-old season to the heartbreaking loss by a head in the Kentucky Derby to his thrilling win in the 1954 Metropolitan Handicap, you will feel like you are really there witnessing those great performances. Extensive use of interviews with his connections and their children plus quotes from articles from the 1950's gives a very personal feel to the book. You aren't left hanging after Native Dancer's death, as an epilogue takes you through the rest of the lives of his trainer, jockey, and owner.

Eisenberg's work is strongly recommended to all fans of racing especially those who enjoy learning about racing history. Readers of the best seller Seabiscuit would undoubtedly enjoy this book as well, given that it too paints a picture of racing's glory era, a time many fans today wish they could have experienced.

Native Dancer has a list price of $25.95 and is available from Amazon.com for $18.17.

Rating:     5/5

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