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Graveyard of Champions: Saratoga's Fallen Favorites
by Bill Heller
from Eclipse Press, 256 pages hardcover

Many think of Saratoga as the "Graveyard of Favorites", but the reality is favorites do as well or better there as at other tracks. "Graveyard of Champions" is a far more accurate term, especially when they went to post as odds-on favorites, and this book explores that theme starting in the 1800's and ending with the 2001 meet. A chronology of all the upsets is included as an appendix along with a chart of all the champions who raced at Saratoga and their record there and how they performed as a favorite to lend statistical validity to the jinx.

Not only the obvious like Man O'War's defeat by Upset and Secretariat's defeat by Onion are detailed, but many lesser known but just as entertaining losses. Not all champions fell at Saratoga and a chapter is devoted to those like Native Dancer and Kelso who never lost at Saratoga. The jinx for favored champions even extended to the Saratoga harness track for Niatross and his astounding defeat there. You won't believe that neither horse nor jockey was injured when you see that photo! The Travers gets special attention in the "Triple Crown Lumps" chapter. Most probably don't realize that Triple Crown race winners have a very poor record of winning when they come to the Spa for the Travers, with Point Given last year being an exception to this trend.

The book is well organized and the tales flow easily from one to another. The reader is drawn into the world of racing at Saratoga and you are disappointed when it ends. Lots of black and white photos are included and help bring the stories to life. An index to all the pictures by horse name can be found at the end, a nice plus. The author cited the Daily Racing Form book Champions, which has the past performances for all the champions of the 20th century, as one inspiration for the book and having this book to refer to alongside Graveyard of Champions can greatly enhance the reader's enjoyment.

Overall this is an excellent book that should be enjoyed by any fan of racing, whether new to the game or a seasoned veteran, and deserves a spot in anyone's library. Take a trip to the Spa and marvel at the great champions who raced, and lost, there over the years.

Ride of Their Lives has a list price of $24.95 and is available from Amazon.com for $17.47.

Rating:     4.5/5

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