Northern Dancer: The Legendary Horse that Inspired a Nation

Kevin Chong. Penguin Canada/Viking Canada (Penguin, North American dist), $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-670-06779-4
Following a lively memoir of equine semi-ownership (My Year of the Racehorse), the track and stable enthusiast Chong crafts a straightforward, detail-filled, and nation-proud reciting of one of Canada's "most thrilling stories." The bulk of this history follows the fraught ownership (by "beer baron" and "reviled plutocrat," E.P. Taylor), training, and management of Northern Dancer, an undersized, underestimated, injury-prone, and "notoriously surly" colt whose one-year racing career resulted in upset victories at the 1964 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (and a hefty boost to Canada's sense of accomplishment). Northern Dancer's enduring post-racing career produced another remarkable feat: 635 foals (467 of which were winners) and a bloodline presence in three-quarters of the thoroughbreds alive today. Acknowledging that Taylor and his exceptional horse were the subjects of books in 1976, 1999, and 2006, the author neglects to clarify exactly what's distinctive or valuable about yet another chronicle of "Canada's most beloved colt"—the long shot nobody wanted that eventually "became the hero of a young country." Horse race history buffs may appreciate the glimpses of behind-the-scenes politicking, while a general readership may be gratified by the brisk pacing of the storytelling. Agent: Martha Webb, Anne McDermid & Associates. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/07/2014
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