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Elizabeth Mitchell is a gifted writer and her account of the rise (and fall) of long shot Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner Charismatic is deeply moving. Charismatic's unlikely success story is woven through Ms. Mitchell's beautifully drawn sketches of the lives of his breeder, owners, trainer and his jockey, the ill-fated Chris Antley, There were so many powerful moments in the book - the image of a stunned D.Wayne Lukas cradling the doomed filly Landaluce in his arms still makes me cry. Ms. Mitchell's personal connection to the Charismatic story infuses the whole with a level of genuine feeling that is (unfortunately) lacking in most of the many books I've read about racing and race horses. This one is different. I loved this book.
Publishers Weekly, 2002-05-16 A contributing editor at Newsweek and author of W: Revenge of the Bush Dynasty, Mitchell was drawn into the sport of horse racing by chance. In 1999, Mitchell and her boyfriend, Chuck, then undergoing treatment for leukemia, made a spontaneous trip to the Kentucky Derby. Basing her wager on a portentous dream, Mitchell picked the winning horse, Charismatic, a 20-1 long shot, and thus began her research into Charismatic's story. Almost given up on by his owners and trainers, Charismatic wasn't the only surprise victor that year; his jockey and trainer were also amazing comeback stories. A shy and quiet kid who set several racing records while still a teenager, jockey Chris Antley didn't handle success well. Drugs and depression seemed to have taken their final toll when Antley, who had grown over an inch in a bizarre, late growth spurt, was saddled with an extra 15 pounds (jockeys must maintain strict, low weight to ride). Charismatic's trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, was a champion trainer whose reputation was losing ground to younger trainers. Mitchell weaves these struggles (as well as that of her stricken boyfriend) into a story that raises the question of the importance of luck, fate, work and genetics in the lives of man and beast. Mitchell's easy tone is backed by meticulous research, including original author interviews. Though the stories are often exceedingly poignant, Mitchell is never cloying; this beautiful book makes a distinct contribution to a singularly American sport and culture. (June) Forecast: Published roughly a year after Laura Hillenbrand's bestselling Seabiscuit, Mitchell's effort proves that, in the right hands, horse racing carries stories with incredible mass appeal. Expect strong sales. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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