Book Review: American Pharoah

Among the changes in our Covid-19 world is more time to read those books stacked up on the nightstand. However, this particular book marked the first time I have read a book via Kindle on my iPhone. I have read others via Kindle, but typically on an iPad, this was my first crack at the smaller screen of a mobile phone. That said, I can’t figure out why subsequent generations have embraced watching TV, movies on video in such a small format. My generation always subscribed to the simple fact that when it comes to TV screens bigger is always better. Yet, I survived and enjoyed Drape’s tale.

Joe Drape has been writing about the intersection of sports, culture and money since coming to The New York Times in 1998. He has also pursued these lines of reporting as a book author, most recently in the Times best-sellers “American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Champion’s Legendary Rise” and “Our Boys: A Perfect Season on the Plains With the Smith Center Redmen.”

In the introduction of his American Pharoah book, he notes that he too believed that he would never see another Triple Crown winner. He was a young child when Secretariat, Affirmed and Seattle Slew achieved the noted sweep. Drape’s father taught him how to read the Daily Racing Form and along with is horse-loving mother, the family spent many afternoons at the racetrack. As a journalist, he continued to cast an eye toward the Sport of Kings and has since visited more than ninety tracks in seven countries.

Add to the mix, Drape has also owned racehorses which helped him appreciate the “high costs, great responsibility, and great thrill that come with being part of the sport.” Over the past two decades, drape wanted to see “a great horse up close, a Triple Crown champion.” As such he has witnessed seven June afternoons at Belmont Park looking to fulfill that wish and ultimately learned to manage his expectations and doubted if the 37-year drought would ever end.

He notes in the intro to “American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Champion’s Legendary Rise” that “Every single person in attendance wanted the same thing. We wanted American Pharoah to win, to achieve something most thought impossible. We wanted to be able to say that we were there when a great horse made history”

He was, and he did.

Drape is a graduate of Southern Methodist University, he previously worked for The Dallas Morning News and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and currently the New York Times. He currently lives in New York City with his wife and son.

According to Joe McClung in USA Today on April 30, 2016:

“The fleet-footed American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Winner’s Legendary Rise (Hachette, 258 pp.) rides into the winner’s circle via effortless prose, well-reported insider details, a compelling human cast of characters — and an irresistible horse: smart, focused and fast.

Drape opens in the breeding shed and introduces us to farm manager Frances Relihan, who had her eye on the exuberant colt from the start. The baby sprinted “so quickly, it was as if he had been shot from a cannon,” she says.

The story continues with colorful owner Ahmed Zayat, soulful trainer Bob Baffert and likable jockey Victor Espinoza, who guided Pharoah masterfully through the Derby, the muddy Preakness and then the glorious Belmont.

Drape briefly visits the darker side of racing, but this is a feel-good tale of triumph, emotion, adoration. And why not? You can’t help but fall for Pharoah, a horse as sweet-natured as a pet, but one who floated as if on a cloud when he raced.”

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Well done, (as they say in New York Times parlance) Mr. Drape.

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