The Bookworm Sez: Not By a Long Shot a good bet for readers
When an athlete begins to age and bones begin to creak, tendons start to protest, and competition gets harder to handle, he (or she) calls a press conference and announces impending retirement. Someday, you might see him (or her) again, maybe coa...
When an athlete begins to age and bones begin to creak, tendons start to protest, and competition gets harder to handle, he (or she) calls a press conference and announces impending retirement. Someday, you might see him (or her) again, maybe coaching or announcing.
We jokingly say they were "put out to pasture."
But what about those who are literally put there? Those four-footed former athletes had to start somewhere, and in the new book "Not By a Long Shot" by T.D. Thornton, you'll read about one of those places: down-and-out, bounce-back-again Suffolk Downs horse track in the Boston area.
According to Thornton, in 1997 - three years before he started the journal that became this book - there were over 35,000 registered thoroughbreds foaled in North America. About six-tenths of one percent of those horses will stand in the winner's circle after a graded race.
Racing itself is undoubtedly an ancient sport, but in Massachusetts as well as the rest of America, it gained acceptance in the late 1800s. Thornton says that Suffolk Downs was "the place to see and be seen" in the 1930s and '40s, but by the close of the twentieth century, other gaming had eclipsed the fun of watching horses run in a circle.
Suffolk Downs was in trouble. New managers had tried to breathe life into the sport and the track, including re-establishing the popular MassCap race, in which equine "stars" raced other stars. But in the betting popularity race, it appeared that slot machines were winning by more than a nose.
During the winter season of 1999-2000, Thornton kept notes on everyday "life" at Suffolk Downs, the track at which he had been working for some seven years. All that season, he chronicled the disappearance and re-appearance of jockeys and mounts, fights between owners and trainers, "thoroughbred degenerates" and track regulars, and the drama behind the stands.
He tells about his father's small stable, and a Harvard doctor who loves her horses more than medicine. He followed the ill-fated career of a steed that seemed to hate to be in front of the pack on race day. And he writes of grave injuries to both jockeys and horses, including the heart-stopping, life-changing accident that happened to one of the most courageous athletes you'll ever meet.
Can't pass up good competition, no matter what kind it is? Then take a shot at author T.D. Thornton's book
"Not By a Long Shot" is an interesting behind-the-scenes look at a business that relies on luck, unpredictable athletes, and statistics to thrive. In a way, this is the equine version of "Rocky," with the wanna-be's, the also-runs, and the ever-hopefuls.
Be aware that while Thornton tries to explain some of the small details and lingo of horse racing, track novices might have a bit of a problem following along. A glossary would've helped immensely.
Pick up a copy of "Not By a Long Shot." If you love stories of the downtrodden and hopeful, or if you're a big fan of the ponies, I'll bet you'll like this book.
Terri Schlichenmeyer is the author of the Detroit Lakes Newspapers book review column, "The Bookworm Sez." Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old, and never goes anywhere without a book.
She lives in West Salem, Wis., with her two dogs and 9,000 books.