Where to Read the 2020 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award Nominees

Pop Culture
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If you’re isolating, now is the perfect time to curl up with a great book. That’s where the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award sponsored by Castleton Lyons comes in: This year, the list of 15 entries is available for order and download from several different mediums, and there’s something for everyone.

The Dr. Tony Ryan Castleton Lyons Book Award recognizes an outstanding book published the within the previous calendar year and that has horse racing as a primary subject or reference point. The nominees are pared down by the judges, Kay Coyte, Jayne Moore Waldrop, and Caton Bredar, until one winner, who receives a beautiful trophy and $10,000, is announced. 

This year’s list of 15 entries includes a former winner, Patrick Smithwick; and a former finalist, Natalie Reinert, and is extremely diverse in genre ranging from fiction to non-fiction, memoir, young adult, biography, coffee table, a collection of first-person stories, and the contest’s first handicapping submission. Every single title brings something unique and special to the collection. Interested? Scroll down to see the list of finalists, a synopsis for each, and information on how to purchase the books.

Backstretch Girls by Dawn LeFevre (Amazon) (Barnes and Noble)

Teagan Sullivan has a royal equestrian pedigree, but she’s a disappointment in the show ring. When life takes her to the racetrack, she has what it takes to ride, but isn’t so great at the interpersonal relationships. Anne, a young jockey surrounded by tragic circumstances, soon becomes her roommate, and the pair work to redemption and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Backstretch at Churchill Downs. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Better Lucky Than Good: Tall Tales and Straight Talk from the Backside of the Track by various authors, from Louisville Story Program (Amazon) (Louisville Story Program)

This collection of memoir essays come from a diverse group of racetrackers around Churchill Downs, from blacksmiths to silks makers, grooms to owners and trainers. The book offers incredible insight into what drives the people who have made horse racing their lives.

Blood in the Bluegrass by D.C. Alexander (Amazon) (Barnes and Noble)

When a star jockey is found murdered just days before the Kentucky Derby, it’s up to Louisville homicide detective Laurel Arno to investigate. The case leads her through all walks of horse racing life, and danger may just be following her on her search.

Blood in the Bluegrass by Virginia Slachman (Amazon) (Barnes and Noble)

When Harper left Kentucky for New York City, she thought she’d escaped her past in the world of horse racing. However, the unexpected death of her sister takes Harper back to the bluegrass, where she realizes that a string of murders at home may be more personal than she thought.

The Hidden Horses of New York by Natalie Reinert (Amazon) (Books-a-Million)

For Jenny, the perfect post-graduate life in New York City revolves around horse racing. She’s a writer, and her best friend Aiden is a photographer. Their plan to chronicle the lives of Thoroughbreds in the Big Apple gets complicated by the fact that Jenny has an unrequited love for her photographer.

Justify by Lenny Shulman (Amazon) (Barnes and Noble)

Most people know Justify as America’s 13th Triple Crown winner, but his story was more unlikely than many know. In just 111 days of racing, the chestnut colt with the flashy blaze made history, and this book chronicles his story. 

Kentucky Horse Tales by Ercel Ellis Jr. (Amazon) (Barnes and Noble)

Ercel Ellis Jr. has been involved in horse racing his whole life, and his collection of short stories chronicle some of the most compelling tales in the sport from his 70-year career in the Thoroughbred industry.  

The Key to the Quarter Pole by Robin Traywick Williams (Amazon) (Barnes and Noble

Louisa Ferncliff is great at fixing things – including mismanaged horses and adrift backstretch workers – but she doesn’t pay much attention to her own life. On the verge of retirement, Louisa has a chance at happiness thanks to her protégé and a quirky Thoroughbred.

Montana Horse Racing: A History by Brenda Wahler (Amazon) (Barnes and Noble)  

Since the days of Lewis and Clark, Montana has had a rich horse racing history. Now, historian and horsewoman Brenda Wahler explores the turf legacy within the Big Sky State.

Steeplechase racing. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Racing Time: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Liberation by Patrick Smithwick (Amazon) (Barnes and Noble)

In the third installment of his trifecta of memoirs, legendary steeplechase jockey Patrick Smithwick explores his relationship with the three men who shaped his love for the game of horse racing. 

Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown by Jennifer S. Kelly (Amazon) (Barnes and Noble)

The very first Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton had royal breeding but a troubled start to life, including a winless 2-year-old season and a near-fatal illness. This is the incredible story of the horse who began the greatest quest in horse racing.

The Skeptical Handicapper: Using Data and Brains to Win at the Racetrack by Barry Meadow (Amazon) (Barnes and Noble

Author Barry Meadow made his living by playing horse races, so he knows what he’s talking about. Read here for advice on how to use both data and your brain to find winners.

Spectacular Bid: The Last Superhorse of the Twentieth Century by Peter Lee (Amazon) (Barnes and Noble

“The Bid” was called “the greatest horse to ever look through a bridle.” See why in this moving biography of one of the best Thoroughbreds of all time.

The Triumph of Henry Cecil by Tony Rushmer (Amazon) (Kobo)

This book offers a look at the career of Sir Henry Cecil, the trainer who staged an incredible comeback through his conditioning of super-horse Frankel. While his skill as a trainer are popular knowledge, this book lets the reader into Cecil’s little-known private life. 

The Travers: 150 Years of Saratoga's Greatest Race by Brien Bouyea & Michael Veitch (Travers Book)

Known as the Midsummer Derby, the Travers Stakes has a celebrated past. Step inside Saratoga’s biggest horse race through 150 years of sporting history. 

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