August 10, 2012

The great Secretariat

The Big Red Horse: The Story of Secretariat and the Loyal Groom Who Loved Him
by Lawrence Scanlan

I got to hearing this noise beside me - them big nostrils goin' - and I knew what it was. When he came by, it felt like a freight train passing - blew the number right off my sleeve.
- jockey George Cusimano

He was the great Secretariat, on his way to winning the 1973 Preakness Stakes. This is the story of the once slow colt who became the most beloved racehorse of all time.

From the moment he was born, Secretariat was special. He looked like a champion. But he wasn't interested in racing. Not at first. Many people had to put in a lot of time and effort to turn him into a racehorse. They included trainers, exercise riders, hot-walkers, and outriders. But the person who formed the closest bond with Secretariat was his groom. 

Edward "Shorty" Sweat had a way with horses. He knew when they were tired or sick, happy or anxious, playful or cranky. He spoke their language and horses, especially Secretariat, adored him.  He and the horse had a special bond; people who saw them together said they were like brothers. This is Eddie's story too, for a great part of Secretariat's success was due to his loving care. The chapters devoted to Eddie and Secretariat are wonderfully touching and moving.

Similarly, Scanlan captures Secretariat's personality so well that he fairly leaps off the page. And the race descriptions are exciting and heart-stopping. For those who remember Secretariat, the book will awaken fond memories, while those meeting him for the first time will simply be awed. 

An excellent story told with reverence and fondness.

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