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Book Review

Legacies of the Turf
A Century of Great Breeders (Vol. 2)
by Edward L. Bowen
Eclipse Press, 320 pages hardcover, 10.70" x 8.56", November 2004

In his latest book, racing historian Edward L. Bowen continues his examination of the most influential Thoroughbred breeders of the 20th century. We learn how they earned their place in history via a short but detailed biography of the breeder and his or her family, their business both inside and outside racing, and the horses they bred who earned them a place in this volume. Because of the size of the project, the author decided to break the book up into two volumes, one for each half of the century. Volume 2 covers the top breeders of the second half of the century. He said, "To condense too many chapters into one book seemed to give insufficient opportunity to describe these outstanding people." In the introduction to the second volume, he writes, "Some breeders, such as Paul Mellon, Ogden Phipps, Alfred Vanderbilt, and Calumet Farm had such lengthy careers that placing them in the first half or last half of the 20th century was more a coin-flip than an assessment."

Volume 1 consisted mostly of old establishment money whose families have been in the business for generations, but in contrast, Volume 2 mostly consists of men who earned their fortune in other ventures and then got into the racing business later. For example, Allen Paulson built aircraft in Florida, E.P. Taylor was a real estate tycoon in Canada, and W.T. Young's first "big score" was in peanut butter. Racing was no longer just the sport of kings, but for anybody with the capital to invest in horses.

For each, their earlier careers as businessmen are detailed and then the pivotal moment when the subject breeder entered the sport is revealed. In each case, "the rest is history". Using their vast amounts of disposable income, in most cases they went to the yearling sales to find racers who would eventually go on to form the backbone of their breeding operation, both stallions and broodmares. After reading several of the stories, you start to see the names of horses repeat themselves. These men obviously felt the need to "breed the best to the best", so the horse that was a top racer for one breeder may well sire the champion filly and eventual foundation mare of another breeder.

In the introduction, Bowen explains why the Maktoum family's Godolphin Racing and Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farm, as successful as they have been, were omitted from this work. Put simply, their American breeding operations in the 20th century were mostly used to produce horses to race in Europe. That pattern changed as we entered the 21st century, where their presence on the American scene significantly increased.

Following the pattern in Volume 1, each chapter includes a convenient "short list" of champion horses bred, pedigree charts of the key horses from that operation such as foundation sires or mares, and several photos of the horses and people involved. Each chapter concludes with a complete list of all the stakes winners bred by that farm, listing the horse's name, color, sex, year of foaling, sire, dam, and maternal grandsire. Finally, Bowen added an appendix featuring five foundation mares from the second half of the century, demonstrating the widespread influence on the breed they have. Each descendent is listed with his or her sire's name and the name of the breeder, and champion horses are conveniently indicated by a dagger symbol.

This is an excellent reference book, especially for racing history aficionados and students of pedigree which can be of help to new fans as well as veterans. Bowen said, "Knowing more about the history of the game will help them put into perspective the engulfing dramas we all see on the Turf every day. I hope the book does justice in helping preserve an appreciation of some extraordinary individuals."

Legacies of the Turf Vol. 2 has a list price of $29.95 but can be purchased from Amazon.com, for $19.77.

Rating:     4/5

Legacies of the Turf Vol. 1

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