2022 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award Semifinalists announced

on 06/21/2023 9:15 AM

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Semifinalists announced for Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award


Five semifinalists have been selected for the 17th Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award, including two novels, three biographical works based on the lives of late 20th century American champions, and a fictional oral history, all published in 2022. 

A 2006 brainchild of the late philanthropist and global businessman Dr. Tony Ryan, the competition is open to any literary genre of book length, the only stipulations being that entries must have a thoroughbred horse racing premise/backdrop, and that the writing be of high quality. 

As always, this year’s winner will be awarded a check for $10,000—making it one of the most lucrative prizes in all of publishing. Two runners-up receive $1,000 each, while all three finalists take home Tipperary Irish crystal trophies in the form of the distinctive fieldstone tower at the Ryan family’s Castleton Lyons near Lexington, Ky.

After two years of virtual winners’ announcements due to Covid, the Book Award returned last fall to the loft above the historic stallion barn at Castleton Lyons, where it had been held since its inception. The invitation-only, drinks and hors d’oeuvres reception to announce the current winner is tentatively scheduled for the evening of Nov. 9. 

For additional information, contact Kerrie Cahill at: (859) 455-9222, or at


Following are semifinalists, listed alphabetical by author.





Author:  Geraldine Brooks


By Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks, Horse tells a fictionalized tale of pre-Civil War champion Lexington and his enslaved groom Jarrett, as they travel the South and cross paths with a young painter of racehorses. The narrative goes back and forth in time, to a 1954 New York art gallery where a mysterious painting captures the imagination of a noted art dealer, to 2019 Washington, D.C., where a long-forgotten equine skeleton is rediscovered at the Smithsonian. Fact and fiction weave together magically at the hands of a gifted writer.



Secretariat: A 1970s Superstar


Author: A.J. Chilson


In commemoration of Secretariat’s race to immortality 50 years ago in the 1973 American Triple Crown, A.J. Chilson has penned a golden anniversary tribute to Meadow Stable’s flame-coated superstar. Chilson, a poet and author of several inspirational children’s books, herein educates the next generation of racing fans about one of the sport’s all-time greats.



The  Fast Ride: Spectacular Bid and the Undoing of a Sure Thing


Author:  Jack Gilden


In The Fast Ride, an award-winning writer takes a closer look at the biggest—and most mysterious—loss of the great Spectacular Bid’s career. In the spring of 1979 the magnificent gray, compared by many to Secretariat, captured the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, but lost the Belmont after allegedly stepping on a pin that morning in the stable area. It is a hard-hitting story of extraordinary talent overshadowed at times by mishandling, inexperience, and potential abuse, and filled with a cast of larger-than-life characters. 




Landaluce: The Story of Seattle Slew’s First Champion


Author:  Mary Perdue


This bittersweet biography is one of heartbreak and dreams unfulfilled, of a filly cut down at the very threshold of greatness. Landaluce was from Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew’s first crop and was a sign of good things to come for the young stallion. She won all five of her starts as a two-year-old in 1982 by an average of nearly ten lengths before dying suddenly of a viral infection in her stall at Santa Anita. She was a champion but could have been an immortal. 




Kick the Latch


Author: Kathryn Scanlan


Author Scanlan has described her slim novel as a work of fiction based on interviews with an Iowa-based trainer named Sonia. The story is poetically told in vignettes, as an oral history that can make the reader wonder at times what is real … and what is not. She writes of the itinerant backstretch world at low-level racetracks, telling a story of survival where horses are patched up for one more start and jockeys brag about “flipping” to make weight, with violence as a simmering backdrop. Scanlan’s writing is sparet but powerful.

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