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Book Review

The 10 Best Kentucky Derbies
By The Staff and Correspondents of the Blood-Horse
Eclipse Press, 2005, 208 pages, hardcover
Sample chapter available online from Eclipse Press

The Kentucky Derby is one of the world's most famous horse races. Over the last 131 years, it has lived up to its reputation as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports". Crowds in excess of 100,000 gather on the first Saturday in May to witness history, as the best 3-year-olds of their crop battle it out over a grueling 1 1/4 mile trip under the Twin Spires in hopes of wearing the Garland of Roses in the winner's circle. But of the 130 Derbies run so far, which were the best? Which were the most exciting? Which evoked the greatest emotions? In this latest release by Eclipse Press, a number of staff and correspondents gathered to try to settle this very question and came up with The 10 Best Kentucky Derbies. An all-star panel consisting of Bob Adair, Mike Battaglia, Steve Haskin, Joe Hirsch, and Jim McKay decided which ten runnings were most deserving of inclusion in this exclusive club, and then assigned one running each to 10 different Blood-Horse writers.

Each story is a well-written account of that year's running, starting off with a summary of how the contenders prepped for the race. You read about where that year's winner was foaled and broken, and how his or her career led up to Churchill Downs. As well, you learn about how the owner got into the sport. The Derby, of course, is described in great detail including any difficulties in the paddock, the usually rough trip experienced when up to 20 top horses cram themselves into that tight clubhouse turn, and of course the final strides to the winning post. The writers don't end the story there, instead summarizing the horse's later successes and breeding career if successful. Black and white photographs are included for each race, with an 8-page photo insert in the center of the book which includes several color photographs.

Few readers of the book will be able to argue against their choices. Among those included you have Regret in 1915, the first of only three fillies to win the Roses but also the horse that finally gave the Derby national credibility which it holds to this day. Affirmed vs. Alydar in 1978 was the ultimate rivalry, two warriors that were at each other's throats both as juveniles and as 3-year-olds. 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat amazed as the only horse to run each successive quarter faster than the last, setting a track record that has yet to be matched. And no book on the Derby would be complete without including the infamous Fighting Finish of 1933, when the riders aboard Brokers Tip and Head Play matched stride for stride through the lane as their jockeys, Don Meade and Herb Fisher, grabbed at each other and hit each other with their whips hoping to steal the win.

For any racing fan, this is an excellent book to add to their collection. In this well-written and easy-to-read work, racing history aficionados will be captivated by the stories of these outstanding horses who have contributed greatly to the mystique of the Kentucky Derby. These ten special races demonstrate most clearly why the Derby has earned the title of "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports".

The 10 Best Kentucky Derbies has a list price of $24.95 and is available from both Eclipse Press and Amazon.com. A sample chapter with photos is available from Eclipse Press.

Rating:     5/5

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