Blurb: From the moment they first galloped head-to-head in Saratoga Springs, the two chestnut colts showed they were the stuff of racing legend. Alydar, all muscle with a fearsome closing kick, was already the popular favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. Affirmed, deceptively laid-back streamlined elegance, was powered forward by his steely determination not to settle for second place.
In the Sport of Kings, the Triple Crown is the most valued prize, requiring a horse to win not just one race, but three: the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. And 1978 would not be just for the record books, but also one of the greatest dramas ever played out in the racing world.
There were names to conjure with, worthy of the Sport of Kings. The bloodline of Native Dancer. The teen wonderboy jockey Steve Cauthen. The once unbeatable Calumet Farm—the Damn Yankees of the racing world—now in eclipse and hoping for a comeback. The newcomer Harbor View Farm—owned by brash financier Louis Wolfson, who wouldn’t let even a conviction and a prison sentence for securities violations stand in the way of his dreams of glory. And the racetracks themselves: Belmont, Saratoga, Pimlico. And, of course, Churchill Downs.
It has been thirty-five years since Affirmed and Alydar fought for the Triple Crown, thirty-five years when no other horse has won it. Duel for the Crown brings this epic battle to life. Not just two magnificent Thoroughbreds but the colorful human personalities surrounding them, caught up in an ever-intensifying battle of will and wits that lasted until the photo finish of the final Triple Crown race . . . and Alydar and Affirmed leaped into the history books.
Mochas, Mysteries and Meows Review: I am not a sports fan. While people around me heatedly debate major sporting events I smile politely and pretend that I know (or care) about what they're discussing. That being said, I am a NASCAR fanatic and passionate about horse racing's Triple Crown.
I am completely swept up in the mystique of the Triple Crown. The last time it happened was in the spring of 1978, and I was less than a year old, so seeing a horse achieve such a spectacular feat is the #1 sports story I want to see in my lifetime (besides seeing Kevin Harvick win a Sprint Cup Championship!!!)
I've religiously watched the Triple Crown races since the late '80s, and have seen some special horses come sooo close...Alysheba, War Emblem, Big Brown, Charismatic, Sunday Silence. I've also suffered through the tragedies of Barbaro and Eight Belles, which almost made me give up horse racing altogether, as Ruffian's tragic breakdown made my mother stop watching in the '70s. It's for this reason I only watch the 3 races per year...I am so terrified for the horses during each race I'm practically shaking until it's over.
To coincide with this passion I have a fairly extensive library of biographies of famous racehorses, and Duel for the Crown now has a cherished spot in my collection. It chronicles the aforementioned 1978 Triple Crown races between the great Affirmed and Alydar. While at times the first half of the book can move a bit slow as it focuses on the humans behind the horses, the thrilling second half is written so vividly I felt as though I was a spectator at the racetrack witnessing history. Shockingly, there is also a possible murder mystery involved. Sad, but true.
Have you ever watched the three classic races? One of the great things about the Internet is that all of these historic horse races are available to watch anytime with the click of a finger. Check them out and I guarantee that after watching them you will want to read the definitive account of that magical spring during which two spectacular 4-legged athletes captured the hearts and imagination of a nation.
Thanks to the publisher I have an extra Advanced Reading Copy of this book to give away. Simply leave a comment (with your email address) by noon eastern on Friday, April 25th. (US entries only) Do you have a favorite horse racing memory?
Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher with the request for a review.