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Book Review

Old Friends - Visits With My Favorite Thoroughbreds
by Barbara Livingston
from Eclipse Press, 224 pages hardcover

Almost every fan of racing has seen Barbara Livingston's work. From finish shots of important stakes races to conformation photographs of high priced stallions, Livingston has become a household name in the cut-throat world of racetrack photography. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards including the Eclipse Award twice. Having met and spoken with her, we know that she loves horses in general, not just as racers, and it is her love of the horse that is the basis of this work. Livingston said in an interview, "I have just always passionately loved horses... I was a star-struck 12-year-old when Secretariat won the Triple Crown."

In producing Old Friends, Livingston spent about two years traveling to horse farms across North America, visiting with the racing greats that she witnessed over the years who have long since retired. The horses are covered in alphabetical order for easier reference and also to show no favoritism; each horse is great in his or her own right and Livingston, through her words and photography (total of 125 photos throughout the book), does an excellent job accentuating their positive merits. Some of the farms were very honored to be featured in the book, having long assumed their star horse was forgotten by the rest of the world.

Included in the book are visits with Affirmed and Seattle Slew as the last remaining living Triple Crown winners shortly before their deaths, and the distaff side is well represented in champions All Along and Dahlia. She also included great stallions such as Danzig and Deputy Minister, and others who may not have been Eclipse Award winners but who were still deserving to be included based on their merits on the track. In each case, she briefly describes the subject horse's racing career, including personal stories about when she saw the horse in person during that time. She then explains how the horse's progeny have performed and tells us about life on the farm since retirement, including interview comments from the horse's handlers. In a few cases, the horse passed away during the time between the visit and press time for the book. In these cases she includes a brief update note at the end, leaving the original story intact as it was written soon after the visit. She said, "The stories were so positive in current tense, I hated to sadden the stories any more than necessary." Each article is accompanied by a number of photographs she took of the horse on the farm, often with their handlers. In many cases the horse may be showing signs of age, but still retains his or her spirit, posing for her or rearing up. Describing one of her favorite images from the book, Livingston said, "Bargain Day jogging, at age 36, was a wonderful moment. Who would guess the country's oldest stallion had such energy?"

This book is recommended to all fans of racing. Livingston gives every fan an excellent look back over the last thirty years of racing and a great tribute to the horses she featured, the champions of the past who will never be forgotten and those lesser known horses who are still loved by those who knew them. In many cases their offspring are continuing their legacy at racetracks around the world. When asked what she hopes to accomplish with the book, Livingston said, "I hope that the stories contained within Old Friends will stir the heart of the reader. Each horse gave of themselves in whatever manner they could and are incredibly beautiful in their old age. I hope people will see how much many older Thoroughbreds are loved, both the famous and the comparative unknowns. I want people to see the beauty of the Thoroughbred world far from the racing ovals - at its most noble."

Old Friends has a list price of $29.95 and is available from Amazon.com for $20.97. If you liked this book and enjoy beautiful equine photography, you should also check out Barbara's other book, Four Seasons of Racing.

Rating:     5/5

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