Sunday, June 10, 2018

Review of "American Pharoah"

It was only appropriate that I listen to this audiobook this past week during the buildup to the Belmont Stakes when Justify became the 13th horse to win the Triple Crown. This book on the 12th one, American Pharoah, was a wonderful book on a wonderful horse. Here is my review. 

American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Winner’s Legendary Rise” by Joe Drape, narrated by Aaron Abano

Horse Racing, championship, audio book

Publish date:
April 26, 2016

Listening time: 8 hours 36 minutes

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

When American Pharoah became the 12th winner of horse racing’s Triple Crown – winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in the same year – he became a favorite of seasoned and casual racing fans alike. By becoming the first Triple Crown horse in 37 years, he was also a media darling.  His story, along with that of his owner, trainer and jockey, is the story of this excellent book by sportswriter Joe Drape, who covers horse racing for the New York Times.

Like most books on a horse, the story centers not only around the animal, but also on important humans in the horse’s life.  In the case of American Pharoah, this included owner Ahmed Zayat, trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Victor Espinoza.  All three, as well as many others, sing the praises of the horse for not only his racing ability but for his strength and beauty as well. There are even some stories about others who had an important role in the upkeep and training of American Pharoah. One such person is Frances Relihan, who was the farm manager where the horse spent the first year of his life. It was a touching moment when Zayat invited Frances and her husband to attend the 2015 Kentucky Derby.

The reader will even learn about American Pharoah’s personality.  He loves it when the cameras are rolling on him, he has pride in his gallop and he will even mingle with fans. Often in the book, Drape will talk about him eating carrots out of the hands of fans, especially children. This was a nice touch for the book as it made the reader feel like he or she is part of the horse’s story.

The book talks at length about the horse racing industry. No matter how much the reader knows about the sport, it is a good bet that reader will learn something new. Starting with the breeding ritual that created American Pharoah and continuing through his career, the reader learns much about the breeding and training aspects of the industry. This isn’t all rosy, however, as Drape also talks about the doping that occurs as well and some of the more tragic consequences.  Instead of criticizing the sport for this, Drape presents it in a manner that states it is simply a part of the industry and that not all horses, including American Pharoah, are part of this culture.

The narration by Arron Abono was very good as well, even sounding as excited as the race track announcers when reciting their stretch calls during each of the Triple Crown races. The book is recommended for anyone with an interest in the sport or learning more about this legendary horse.

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