on 03/17/2017 9:17 AM

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Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award Finalists Announced


    At eleven years and counting, the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award continues to garner growing interest within the racing and literary communities, with a near-record number of entries for 2016. In addition to quantity, the quality of this year’s submissions was as exceptional as it was diverse—including a broad assortment of histories, biographies, works of fiction, and photo-journalistic essays.

   Since its founding in 2006 by the late Dr. Ryan, the award has annually recognized the best in book-length race writing published during the previous year. Past honorees have included globally known writers and journalists, including a National Book Award recipient, multiple Eclipse Award winners, and a Pulitzer Prize nominee. The $10,000 winner’s check remains one of the most lucrative literary awards offered anywhere, equal to that of the Pulitzer for Literature and National Book Award. The two runner-up finalists for the Dr. Ryan Award each receive $1,000, while all three top authors take home Tipperary Crystal replicas of the farm’s iconic tower.

   The by-invitation 2016 winner’s reception will be held on the evening of April 20, 2017, in the loft above the historic stallion barn at Castleton Lyons, near Lexington, Kentucky. For more information, contact Betsy Hager at: (859) 455-9222, or at


Semifinalists (in alphabetical order):


Finding Daylight

Author: Mara Dabrishus                       

Finding Daylight is the only work of fiction among this year’s semi-finalists. Author Dabrishus’ young adult book follows a girl and her horse from a crumbling family farm to the very mountain top of racing. The book is populated with well-defined, believable characters you grow to care about, while serving up hefty doses of heart-pounding excitement and drama, along with a bit of teen-friendly romance.

 The Great Sweepstakes of 1877; A True Story of Southern Grit, Gilded Age Tycoons, and a Race That Galvanized the Nation

Author: Mark Shrager

 America’s divisive post-Civil War era comes to life in this historic chronicle, culminating in an afternoon 140 years ago when Congress actually adjourned to attend a horse race. It was an event for the ages, a North vs. South match between three future Hall of Fame Thoroughbreds—with ramifications far exceeding that particular day, time, and place. 

Here Comes Exterminator! The Longshot Horse, the Great War, and the Making of an American Hero

Author: Eliza McGraw

 The remarkable story of one of racing’s most beloved celebrities, 1918 Kentucky Derby winner Exterminator. The gangly gelding was made of heart and iron, winning 50 races—often under enormous weights—while becoming a hero of his age. Fondly known to his public as "Old Bones,” he owned America’s collective heart from the closing months of World War I into the Roaring Twenties.

The Kentucky Derby

Author: Bill Doolittle

Penned by a leading Derby historian, this coffee table volume recalls the story of America’s most famous—and most important—horse racing event. Generously illustrated with the work of renowned photographers, The Kentucky Derby describes the lead-up to the big day on the first Saturday in May, while chronicling how the Run for the Roses came to so thoroughly capture the imagination of the racing world

Mr. Darley’s Arabian: High Life, Low Life, Sporting Life

Author: Christopher McGrath

A sweeping tale of the Sport of Kings from its earliest days, told by an award-winning racing journalist. The history begins with Thomas Darley’s renowned Arabian stallion, captured from Bedouin tribesmen in 1704 and brought to England, where his outsized influence would make him ancestor to 95% of modern Thoroughbreds. Shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award

Old and New Friends

Author: Barbara Livingston

The latest in photo-journalism by Thoroughbred racing’s premier photographer. In this edition, Livingston chronicles the lives of 100 retired racehorses, including fan favorites from A.P. Indy and American Pharoah to Xtra Heat. The handsome coffee table book is filled cover-to-cover with lush color photography and Livingston’s first-person experiences with these extraordinary animals.


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