To Kentuckians, it’s simply ‘The Derby’. You may also have heard it called ‘The Run for the Roses’ or ‘The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports’. It’s the first stop on the journey to the American Triple Crown, but The Kentucky Derby is so much more than just a race.
In my home, as I’m sure it is in many others, Derby is tradition. If you’re lucky enough to get good seats under those twin spires at Churchill Downs, Derby means sundresses and sweating mint juleps, bow ties and outrageously large hats. In my family, however, we take a more casual approach – for us, Derby means sunshine and burned hotdogs on the patio, bare toes in grass, penny bets between the kids (and several of the grownups), and a crisp ten dollar bill to whichever lucky person picks the winning horse.
No matter where you are, Derby means getting a little misty-eyed as thousands of people sing My Old Kentucky Home, feeling shivers crawl up your arms as the opening bugle sounds, sensing your heart begin to race as the gates clang shut, the intake of breath–the whole world seeming to pause–as everyone waits for the bell.
If, like me, you just can’t get enough of the spectacle, the gorgeous horses, or the untold stories behind it all, here are three equestrian-themed books to read after the Derby is over.
Seabiscuit – An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
Hillenbrand, author of bestseller Unbroken, follows the world’s biggest underdog from his humble beginnings as a knock-kneed foal from Paris, Kentucky’s Claiborne Farm, to his battle for glory on the race track. Purchase Seabiscuit at your local indie bookstore
The Horse God Built by Lawrence Scanlan
An enthralling tribute to the man behind the legend, readers get to see the incredible Secretariat from the eyes of his beloved groom, Eddie “Shorty” Sweat. Said to be the one person who understood Big Red better than anyone, this book follows Eddie from his youth in South Carolina to his days in the spotlight with the world’s greatest horse. Purchase The Horse God Built at your local indie bookstore.
Joey: How A Blind Rescue Horse Helped Others Learn To See by Jennifer Marshall Bleakney
Joey was once a majestic show horse, but at the height of his career, an injury cost him everything. Passed from owner to owner, starved and abused, Joey finally found a home with Hope Reins, a therapeutic riding center in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he helps kids in crisis learn to hope and learn to heal. Purchase a copy of Joey at your local indie bookstore.
Whether or not your horse is a win, place, or show at the 145th running of The Kentucky Derby this weekend, these books are sure to transport you to teaming grandstands and foggy pastures.
See you at the track! We’ll have a mint julep waiting for you.