Jennifer’s Horsey Gift Guide 2020

As the year winds down and the calendar begins its inevitable shift to a new year, holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah give us the chance to celebrate the bounty of the year and share it with friends and family. This year’s celebration may be socially distanced, but don’t let it deter you from finding that special something for the special someone in your life. If you’re of the horsey sort or know someone who is, here are my choices for finding fabulous goodies to gift in 2020.

Amie’s Horse Racing Gifts offers a large array of items for horse fans of all stripes. Whether you’re a diehard Chromie or you want to honor your favorite OTTB, Amie has something for you. She can personalize everything from Christmas ornaments to car decals to coffee mugs and more. I always put her at the top of my gift guide because I have bought decals, shirts, and an entire set of Triple Crown winner ornaments for my tree. She is the ultimate in gifting for horse racing fans.

Of course, if you’re looking for something to comfy and horsey to wear, look to the guys at Old Smoke Clothing for the right hat or shirt for your racing fan. They have shirts that celebrate all aspects of the racing industry from jockeys to trainers to horses to the places we find all three. Check out my favorite shirt of all, honoring my special guy. If you like subscription boxes, Old Smoke has those too! Join their Clubhouse to access exclusive items and more.

Odds & Hind Ends offers pins and stickers that celebrate some of our favorite Thoroughbreds, including Frosted, Tiz the Law, and the immortal A.P. Indy. These would make fantastic stocking stuffers for any fan.

Grey Horse Candle Company offers a number of soy wax candles and melts that bring your favorite barn scents to your home. Find candles in scents like Fresh Cut Hay and Peppermints for Ponies and more. What better way to make your home feel extra horsey than a candle?

Robert Clark’s artwork celebrates the beauty and grace of our favorite Thoroughbreds, his photo realistic style making his portraits of horses like American Pharoah and Zenyatta must-haves in your home. Check out his store to see all of the famous names he’s captured. I don’t think I could stop at just one!

For fans of international racing, I hear that Darren Bird makes all sorts of goodies that would make fantastic gifts. His shop includes calendar, coffee mugs, and more, all featuring familiar names: Enable, Tiger Roll, Frankel, and a long list of others.

Does your OTTB need a new halter or bridle? Would you like to support a business that features Made in Kentucky items? Look no further than Two Horse Tack! Find equipment in a variety of colors to personalize your tack or start a kit for a new rider.

My office is four walls of racing artwork, including photographs like the ones you’ll find at Bob Coglianese Photos, Inc. You can find photos from both American Pharoah’s and Justify’s Triple Crowns as well as images dating back to the 1930s and 1940s. Order a print or two for your home and bring these iconic champions into your home for all to see.

Born to Rein chronicles the careers of Jack Van Berg and John Nerud, exploring their connection to the Nebraska horse industry and their contributions to horse racing. Find the DVD and more at the Born to Rein shop. Sir Barton makes a special appearance as well!

Feel like a kid again with some Breyer models on your shelves. Their store has a section just for racehorses, featuring icons like Secretariat and newer legends like Winx. Perfect for any horse lover, young or old.

Now, shirts and photos and other horsey goodness are all well and good, but curling up with a good book, nay a good horse book, is a gift that keeps on giving. Why not find a great new horse story — fiction or non — at the Bookstore for Horse Lovers. Find a sweet romance set against the backdrop of Maryland’s horse country or a thrilling exploration of the career of a great horse like Spectacular Bid. How many stories will you add to cart this year?

The gift shop at the Kentucky Derby Museum has all things Derby for any racing fan. Find shirts, mint julep glasses, pins, and much, much more. I may need to add some old school mint julep glasses to my collection…

If you’d like to couple your charitable giving with some great gifts for the horsey person in your life, check out the Old Friends eBay store! Find horseshoes, halters, and more from your favorite Old Friends resident.

Finally, visit the ultimate Saratoga stop for gift giving this year: Impressions of Saratoga. There, you can find Brien Bouyea & Michael Veitch’s book on the Travers Stakes or a cozy Saratoga hoodie for these cold weather months. For the kids on your list, find adorable books on some iconic Saratoga underdogs like Jim Dandy and Upset. Celebrate all things Saratoga with gifts from this local source.

That’s it, folks. I hope I’ve helped you find some great gifts for those horsey folks on your list (and maybe a few for you too). Did you buy something from one of these retailers? Let me know if the comments!

Happy Holidays!

A Gift Guide for Horse Book Lovers

All right, I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for books. I probably have more books in my library than I’ll ever be able to read in a lifetime and my pile of books on horses and horse racing is taller than I am. Books will always be among my favorite gifts to give and receive. If you are as fond of the written word as I am, this gift guide is for you!

New Books for 2020

These books are new for 2020 and include a look at a jockey who broke through the glass ceiling, a gambling coup in the modern era, and an exploration of an unexpected mecca for vice. I’ve added all of these to my wish list!

Diane Crump: A Horse-Racing Pioneer’s Life in the Saddle by Mark Shrager. Shrager’s look at the career of one of America’s first female jockeys chronicles her journey from exercise rider to crusader, seeking the same respect for her skills on horseback that were granted to the men who had dominated the sport for centuries.

The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told: A True Tale of Three Gamblers, The Kentucky Derby, and the Mexican Cartel by Mark Paul. Paul’s book tells the story of his seven-figure bet on America’s biggest race and the risks he and his partners took to collect their winnings.

The Vapors: A Southern Family, the New York Mob, and the Rise and Fall of Hot Springs, America’s Forgotten Capital of Vice by David Hill. I heard about this book first on Steve Byk’s show, and the more I read about it, the more I can’t wait to get my hands on it. Visit Hot Springs, Arkansas to find how “gangsters, gamblers, and gamines” came together to create this forgotten capital of vice.

2020 was an interesting year to put out a new book. I hope you will check out these new titles and then follow their authors on social media.

Get Excited!

This coming spring, the story of Zev versus Papyrus will grace the pages of the newest Horses in History title, Racing for America. Published by the University Press of Kentucky, Jamie Nicholson’s newest book will cover the people and horses that make the story of this first great international event in American racing. I cannot wait for this book to come out.

Before Racing for America comes out, pick up some of Jamie’s other titles, including:

1968: A Pivotal Moment in American Sports

Amidst the social turmoil of 1968 — protests, assassinations, unrest — came a year of memorable sporting moments. Nicholson weaves together events like the disqualification of the Kentucky Derby winner and war protests into the story of a year unlike any other. Explore how society and sports are irrevocably interwoven in our modern era.

Never Say Die: A Kentucky Colt, the Epsom Derby, and the Rise of the Modern Thoroughbred Industry

In 1954, a Kentucky bred colt brought together a series of influential individuals from an heir to the Singer sewing machine fortune to the Aga Khan and helped make music history in the process. Nicholson masterfully weaves the story of this Epsom Derby with the history of the Singer family and the influence of the Aga Kahn on thoroughbred racing worldwide.

The Notorious John Morrissey: How a Bare-Knuckle Brawler Became a Congressman and Founded Saratoga Race Course

How does a professional boxer become a politician and the founder of one of America’s premier racetracks? John Morrissey brought together forces that helped bring horse racing back to prominence as one of America’s favorite pastimes. Nicholson explores the life of this Irish immigrant and his rags-to-riches story in an era that set the stage for the modern sport of horse racing.

The Kentucky Derby: How the Run for the Roses Became America’s Premier Sporting Event

How did Meriwether Clark’s big idea become America’s greatest horse race? How did the Twin Spires come to join other essential American sites on the list of the country’s historic places?

Jamie’s work is well researched and deeply engrossing. Come for the horses and stay for all of the stories!

An Author to Check Out

In addition to exploring Jamie’s portfolio, I wanted to feature an author who has a long catalog of wonderful equine fiction and a fun social media presence. Natalie Keller Reinert wrote the award-winning The Hidden Horses of New York , a book that I have in my queue for this winter, as well as several series of books set in the world of eventing and more. If you enjoy all things equine, I recommend checking Natalie’s catalog of books out.

Natalie also has a neat Christmas freebie for you guys. Check out Claiming Christmas and warm up your holiday season with some warm and fuzzy stories.

Horses in History

The Horses in History imprint from the University Press of Kentucky features three of the 20th century’s most famous names and explores a couple of mysteries that linger in the sport today. What really happened to Epsom and Irish Derby winner Shergar? Was there really a safety pin lodged in Spectacular Bid’s hoof on Belmont Stakes day? Horses in History is also home to the story of how Sir Barton became the pioneer of one of America’s greatest and most elusive feats in racing.

Taking Shergar: Thoroughbred Racing’s Most Famous Cold Case

Spectacular Bid: The Last Superhorse of the Twentieth Century

Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown

One More!

Brien Bouyea and Michael Veitch published their chronicle of the rich history of the Travers Stakes in 2019. The Travers: 150 Years of Saratoga’s Greatest Race is a beautiful, full color exploration of the history of the Midsummer Derby, one of America’s most prestigious races, and includes rare photographs and more. Even better, from now until December 15th, the authors will donate $10 from each sale to Old Friends!

I have this gorgeous book and refer to it whenever I write about a Travers winner. This is a must for any horse racing fan’s library!

What books will you be adding to your wish list? Do you have some suggestions for this guide? Drop your suggestions in the comments, and, of course, let me know what books you find under the tree this year.

Catching Up

I realized yesterday that not only has it been some time since I posted here, but I have a number of media appearances I haven’t shared here. So, without further ado, behold a series of posts where I share with you the links to these chances to talk all things Sir Barton with some of horse racing’s best media professionals.

Let’s start with the Can Do podcast with the wonderful Bill Duncliffe. We had so much to talk about that we ended up with two episodes!

A Zoom presentation for the Equine History Collective on Sir Barton’s life and career.

A fun chat with John Engelhardt about Sir Barton’s career.

The amazing Carly Kate invited me on her podcast celebrating equine authors of all stripes:

An interview with Marie D. Jones of Sports as Told By a Girl

My interview with the alumni magazine for The University of Alabama in Huntsville:

My hometown newspaper, The Madison Record

The announcement of Foxes of Belair

An interview with Lee Roop of The Huntsville Times

A nice article on Champions of the Track:

A delightful book review from The Turf Board:

A fun appearance on Horses in the Morning:

A great chat with the Winchester Star (Virginia)

A profile of Sir Barton from the Louisville Courier-Journal

Frank Mitchell’s kind words on the book:

The fun and funny guys Andrew Champagne and J.D. Fox invited me on their show:

The immense privilege of being on my local NPR station, WLRH:

Can You Imagine?

SirBartonPostcard04242020After splashing through the mud beneath the Twin Spires, Loftus guided Sir Barton over to the winner’s circle, where a uniformed attendant draped a blanket of greenery and roses over his withers. His groom stood by his head, slipping the cupped hood off so that the crowd could see their new champion in full. On a gray day, the burnished chestnut had only a cascade of white down his elegant face to interrupt the coppery coat. Was he blowing from the effort? Or had it felt like a workout, a joyful gallop around the track leading the herd home?

In the wee hours of the following morning, he walked through the dark to the waiting car, his hooves clopping on the ramp up into the stall that would be his home for the coming journey. How many of them yawned as the wiry man oversaw their efforts? He wasn’t called “Hard Guy” for nothing: did he snap at them if they tarried? Did he pat the noses of his charges, maybe even manage a smile for his Kentucky Derby winner? Did H.G. Bedwell tick down his checklist of what needed to be done once they arrived? Had he already worked out a strategy for Wednesday’s race? It was the Preakness after all, with its $25,000 purse waiting.

The train wound its way from Kentucky to Maryland, from the Bluegrass to the home of the blue crab. Did the horses sway in their stalls, lulled by the ambient motion of the train over the steel tracks? Did they know they were off to their next test, another meeting at the barrier? As they slid into Pimlico, were they tired from their journey or were they ready to run? For his part, Sir Barton seemed “as proud as a peacock and did not seem a bit sore after his win of the Derby on Saturday.” (Washington Herald, May 13, 1919). Did he walk into his stall aware that all of their eyes were on him?

The_Edwardsville_Intelligencer_Sat__Jul_5__1919_On a warm late spring day, with the sun shining down on the crowd of thousands, he lined up at the barrier with eleven others, standing toward the middle of the undulating crowd of horses. When the start came, his feet were the fastest, finding the front and not allowing another horse to get near him. He flashed under the wire, triumphant and unprecedented: he was the first to win the Kentucky Derby AND the Preakness Stakes. After his show, he returned to the ovation of the thousands, Loftus tipping his cap to the thunderous hands of the race’s witnesses. Commander Ross and H.G. Bedwell beamed, posing with the vaunted Woodlawn Vase for the cameras. Loftus beamed, his young face untouched by the Pimlico dirt this day.

In the background, a man climbed up to the Pimlico weathervane, paint cans in hand, and splashed the Preakness with Ross orange and black, a visible reminder of history made this day, May 14, 1919.


10 Fun Facts about Sir Barton on His 104th Birthday

SirBartonAloneOn this day in 1916, Lady Sterling gave birth to a golden chestnut colt with a wide blaze, a son of Star Shoot that destined to make history three years later. One hundred and four years later, let’s celebrate Sir Barton’s birthday with twenty-six fun facts about our first Triple Crown winner.

  1. Both Star Shoot and Lady Sterling both were blind or nearly blind at the time of Sir Barton’s conception.
  2. Sir Barton was named for Sir Andrew Barton, the Scottish privateer whose letter of marque allowed him to attack ships from enemy nations and then potentially keep their cargo.
  3. Trainer H.G. Bedwell would tease Sir Barton whenever the horse stuck his head out of his stall. The trainer would slap the colt on the muzzle and Sir Barton would try to catch his hand. This led to the horse’s tendency to grab for people when they got too close.
  4. Star Shoot died in November 1919 at age 21. Lady Sterling died in 1920 at age 21. Sir Barton died on October 30, 1937 at age 21.
  5. Sir Barton set a track record in the 1920 Saratoga Handicap. He ran the mile and a quarter in 2:01 4/5. Man o’ War duplicated that time in the Travers Stakes that same year.
  6. Sir Barton set a world record for 1 3/16 miles in the 1920 Merchants and Citizens Handicap. His time was 1:55 3/5.
  7. Sir Barton and Man o’ War met in a match race at Kenilworth Park in Windsor, Ontario on October 12, 1920. The Educational Film Corporation set up fourteen cameras to film the race in its entirety, combining that with pre-race footage of both horses. The resulting film was called The Race of the Age and was shown in theatres across the United States.
  8. After his retirement in 1921, Sir Barton stood for one season at Commander J.K.L. Ross’s Maryland farm before his sale to Audley Farm near Berryville, VA. Brothers Montfort and B.B. Jones wanted Sir Barton to head their new breeding operation.
  9. Sir Barton is buried in Washington Park in Douglas, WY. How the heck did our first Triple Crown winner end up in Wyoming? Read Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown to learn all about it!
  10. Sir Barton’s April 26th birthday is not the latest of our thirteen Triple Crown winners. War Admiral was born on May 2nd.

Today in Racing History — April 3rd

IMG_20190525_104332100 years ago, 1920 — The Maryland state legislature was considering the Burke Measure, also known the Burke-Janney law, creating the Maryland Racing Commission and putting racing in the state of Maryland under more state oversight. Once the bill passed, the state’s racetracks — Havre de Grace, Bowie, Pimlico, and Laurel — shared 100 racing days a year and were required to pay $6,000 a day in taxes to the state.

Read more about that in Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crownchapter 11.

75 years ago, 1945 — Racetracks in the United States were dark on orders of the War Department. In England, however, Ascot was open, leaving American soldiers wondering why the Brits were able to race when racing here had been closed for the duration.

Read more in the Louisville Courier-Journal, April 3, 1945.

50 years ago, 1970 — Peter Fuller’s pursuit of Dancer’s Image’s share of the 1968 Kentucky Derby purse continues in Kentucky.

Read the article in the Louisville Courier-Journal, April 3, 1970.

Shut Down by the Spanish Flu

The dark, dank trenches of France behind him, imagine your doughboy stepping off a ship onto American soil. For the first time in many months, he is back in his own country, but he can’t come home to you just yet. Instead, he reports to his unit’s headquarters and finds himself surrounded by frantic doctors and nurses trying to squelch an epidemic.

In the late fall of 1918, as the Great War was winding down and American soldiers were boarding ships back to the United States, they brought with them an unwelcome gift: a new and more virulent strain of the Spanish flu. The previous spring had seen an outbreak of the same flu, but the intervening months had mutated the virus into something more deadly, striking the young and healthy as it spread among soldiers and then civilians so quickly that it overwhelmed cities.

In 1918, the horse racing world was much smaller than it is today. By the fall, events like the Kentucky Derby and Saratoga’s late summer meet had already come and gone, but meets at Latonia in northern Kentucky and Laurel in Maryland were at the mercy of measures that governments had to take to stem the tide of this deadly epidemic.

No, No, You Can’t Go

By early October, newspapers were awash in reports about the outbreak of this new strain of the flu, detailing the rise in cases as well as the measures being taken to treat those stricken. Wartime policies had prevented the spread of information about the virus’s movements until it was too late in some areas. The city of Philadelphia had gone ahead with a parade celebrating Liberty Bonds, which the government had sold to help fund the war effort. Days later, a spike in reported flu cases were a direct result of that decision.

That realization led local authorities in both Maryland and Kentucky to limit public gatherings in that crucial first part of October. That meant that both Laurel and Latonia would have to wait. This delayed a number of stakes races, including the match race between two-year-olds Billy Kelly and Eternal that was to decide the best juvenile of the year. The Daily Racing Form updated readers on the latest regarding each meet, optimistically reporting each time the ban might be lifted.

Sound Familiar?

Finally, the bans were lifted in late October, allowing each meet to go forward. Both were delayed by two or three weeks, but racing resumed nevertheless and quickly returned to normal. The Spanish flu would linger for another six months, with another outbreak in the spring of 1919. By that point, the virus had again evolved to a less serious version, marking the end of a nightmarish epidemic in the United States. No corner of the country had been untouched by the Spanish flu: even President Woodrow Wilson endured his own case as he prepared to sign the Treaty of Versailles.

Our ability to diagnose viral infections and understand how they spread is years from where it was a century ago. This knowledge means that we know what we need to do to deal with an epidemic like the COVID-19, including something unprecedented for most of us: the cancellation or postponement of our favorite sports. While we wait for the First Saturday in September and mourn the loss of familiar joys, let us remember that racing eventually returned to normal in 1918 and that will happen again in 2020.

The Degenerates’ Gift-Giving Guide!

Pete Fornatale and Jonathon Kinchen have a brilliant podcast called the In the Money Podcast, where they talk about handicapping, racing previews, and more. I recently appeared on the show to talk about books, artwork, and other gift ideas for the horse racing person in your life. Here are the books that I recommended!

Continue reading “The Degenerates’ Gift-Giving Guide!”

It’s Giving Tuesday!

Happy Giving Tuesday! With Thanksgiving behind us and the winter holidays in front of us, Giving Tuesday is a day to celebrate those who make a difference in our communities by giving a little to help them continue their missions. If you are looking for racing-related charities to give to today, look no further! Here is a list of some worthwhile organzations doing great work in all aspects of the sport:

  • National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame — Today, they’re looking for 452 donors to give a little or a lot in honor of each of their 452 honorees.
  • Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance — This organization provides a list of aftercare organizations accredited by the TAA if you are looking for a local equine charity.
  • Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation — The GJC conducts research that is fundamental for solving ongoing health issues for all horses. They have funded over 300 projects at a number of universities across the world.
  • Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund — The PDJF relies solely on donations to provide financial assistance to jockeys who have suffered catastrophic on-track injuries.
  • Belmont Child Care Association — The BCCA provides childcare for all workers at Saratoga, Aqueduct, and Belmont Park. Since most workers rise quite early and can work late into the day, this organization provides both childcare and early childhood education to these racetrackers.
  • Backside Learning Center — The BLC at Churchill Downs provides educational opportunities to both employees and their families. They offer everything from ESL education for both children and adults to after-school and summer programs for the children of Churchill Down’s equine workers.
  • Thoroughbred Charities of America — The TCA provides grants to nonprofit organizations that benefit the thoroughbred and the people who work with them. You can give to the TCA and know that the funds will go to any number of organizations within the industry, including research, aftercare, therapy, and equine employee assistance.
  • Saratoga WarHorse — The Saratoga WarHorse program provides equine-assistance therapy to veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress. Working with the horses can provide physical, mental, and emotional relief from the symptoms of PTS for these people who have given so much to our country.

These are only a few of the many organizations out there, but I know all of these will appreciate any and all donations. Big or small, whatever you can give will find its use in many worthwhile initiatives that benefit both the horses and the humans of our sport. I hope you will consider giving on this Giving Tuesday!