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Book Review

Horse Racing Coast to Coast: The Traveler's Guide to the Sport of Kings
by Michael Walmsley and Marlene Smith-Baranzini
BowTie Press, May 2006, 328 pages paperback

As the huge crowds at the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup World Championships can attest to, Thoroughbred racing mimics some other sports such as NASCAR in that people are willing to travel long distances across the country if not from overseas to attend the events. This differs from baseball or hockey where most of the live audience is local and is there to cheer on the home team. However, racing fans have had to do much research beyond racing publications for useful travel information. In their new book, Horse Racing Coast to Coast, west coast-based industry veterans Walmsley and Smith-Baranzini personally visited tracks across America to compile a travel guide written with the horse racing fan in mind.

Rather than list all of the tracks alphabetically, the authors grouped the track by regions, such as the Northeast and the Midwest, with the idea that many travelers might combine several tracks in the same area into one road trip. Each region is subdivided into its member states, and within each state each track is covered. Each track gets an article of its own, detailing how to get there, a brief description of its history, and some personal observations by the authors, such as the quality of the racing product and which areas of the building are "must see". Accompanying the article are several photographs of the track, all in color, and an information panel labeled "SnapShot" which gives the useful travel information at a glance - racing season, address, nearest airport, driving directions, admission charges, web address and phone numbers.

After covering each of the tracks within a region, Walmsley and Smith-Beranzini included a "travel section". Each of these begins with a mileage chart showing the distances from major cities within the region to each of the tracks, and then they write a brief synopsis of tourist attractions and annual festivals within each major city. For example, Louisville's section includes the Filson Historical Society and Museum as well as the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Finally, the travel section includes a short list of hotels and restaurants within each city, including pricing and a brief description of the facility and why they recommended it. Their choices tended toward the upscale market so travelers on a budget may need to use alternative resources to find more affordable accommodation and dining options.

This is an excellent book for anybody who regularly travels a significant distance to visit a racetrack, or those considering a racing trip in the near future. Having read the book, readers may find themselves wanting to visit a track they originally had not planned on traveling to, based solely on the author's comments on the facility and nearby attractions. Walmsley and Smith-Beranzini have compiled American racing's best travel book to date, and it is an informative as well as entertaining look at the many different tracks across the country and the great cities and towns they are located in.

Horse Racing Coast to Coast has a list price of $24.95 and is available for $15.72 from Amazon.com.

Rating:     4.5/5

For travelling to race tracks in Britain, try From Aintree to York: Racing Around Britain by Stephen Cartmell

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