Gift ideas for racing fans

| December 23, 2010

If you are waiting to read this before heading out to pick up a gift item or stocking stuffer for the racing fan, you – like the man at the keyboard – love the photo finish!

So let me wish you a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year as you near the quarter-pole and get ready to turn it on for the stretch run. But, like all stretch runners, beware of traffic troubles in the final yards that could prevent you from firing your very best shot.

With that said, here are a handful of gift suggestions for the racing fan on your list. And remember, these suggestions are not only good for Christmas giving – some will work exceptionally well for the gift card, the holiday thought that knows no season:

My top suggestion for anyone on your list can be found in your local bookstore. Run, do not walk, to your favorite bookseller and pluck at least two copies of Jaimy Gordon’s novel “Lord of Misrule” (McPherson & Co.) and sprint to the checkout line. The minimum purchase should be two copies: one for your friend or loved one, and one for yourself.

Bottom food chain

You do not have to love racing or be familiar in the stables to love this amazing tale of the knockabout lives of a cast of characters making their living at a small racetrack near the bottom of racing’s food chain. In an upset comparable to Mine That Bird’s unlikely 50-1 romp in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, “Lord of Misrule” won the National Book Award for fiction in November and is a gripping read for anyone who loves good writing and a terrific story.

Gordon, who has taught writing at Western Michigan University for some 30 years, boasts a pedigree that she has said includes a “long line of horseplayers.”,  She cut her teeth on racing as she grew up near Baltimore’s now embattled Pimlico Race Course, the home of the Preakness, the second jewel of the Triple Crown. She displayed the determination and resilience of a longtime bettor in getting “Lord of Misrule” published after it was rejected time after time from mainstream publishers.

Long, hard start

It took roughly a decade for Gordon to write “Lord of Misrule” and get it on book store shelves. If Gordon’s back story is not great enough to grab you, let me assure you that you will treasure the story that awaits you between the novel’s covers.

The sport’s purists will find a detail or two at which they can nitpick – they would not be happy if they couldn’t. But it is a marvelous read with plenty to love, whether you live for horse racing or pay attention only around the first weekend in May.

Breyer, well know for its decades of producing collectible models of horses of all breeds and disciplines, has wisely jumped on the bandwagon of racing’s recent run of amazing females with models of two of the three biggest female stars of the past two years. It’s Traditional line includes a model of Zenyatta, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the big girl’s likeness goes to equine-related charities. There’s also a Zenyatta Christmas ornament that I like better than the large model.

Fans of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra as Breyer offers models of the record-setting Kentucky Oaks winner as part of its Traditional line and as a holiday ornament, which – again – I like larger than the big model.

For residents of Louisville, I’ve seen both at the Kentucky Derby Museum and the gift shop at the Frazier Arms Museum, which is my favorite among the many wonderful gifts shops at the many wonderful museums in Louisville.

Next challenge for Breyer: three-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Goldikova. Get it done!

Lot of stores

Officially licensed merchandise for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks 137 is in stores throughout the region. If you can’t find the items you’d like on local shelves, you can go online to the Derby Store (

I’m also a big fan of this year’s “Art of the Kentucky Derby” official art by British-born Lesley Humphrey. Note to those who look first for the gray when handicapping any Derby: Ms. Humphrey’s official Derby 137 poster has a gray horse in front. In fact, the horse looks more than a little like looming Super Filly, unbeaten Dancinginherdreams, but more on that later.

You can find the official Derby 137 art in area stores and online at

And here’s your post-holiday gift card item: caps bearing the names of the individual winners of this year’s magnificent Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs. There will be purple “Champions Collection” Goldikova cap coming my way, but any of those caps can be purchased online at the Breeders’ Cup Store.

Fans of Zenyatta can also purchase official merchandise honoring the big mare at the site. Just click on the “Queen Z” collection.

After you finish that stretch run, take a deep breath and give thanks for the great moments we’ve enjoyed in a roller-coaster, but always interesting, racing year.

A happy and blessed holiday to all – and we’re just over 130 days until that other most wonderful time of the year.

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