Gifts for the racing fan who loves to read about great horses and races

| December 15, 2011

While making your Christmas gift list – even as you check it twice – here’s a list of some last-minute holiday gift ideas for Thoroughbred racing fans of every level of enthusiasm.

“Lord of Misrule” by Jamie Gordon – If you failed to pick up a hardcover copy of this beautiful novel and winner of the “2010 National Book Award,” you can still grab a stocking stuffer paperback copy for the reader/racing lover on your list.

Gordon paints a fascinating picture of racing far from the Kentucky Derby spotlight – the difficult life of bottom level races and cheap horses in West Virginia in the 1970’s.

Hardcover copies are still out there and I’m sure that Louisville’s Carmicheal’s Books and the great Poor Richard’s Bookstore in Frankfort can grab one for you.

There are few “sure things” in racing, but “Lord of Misrule” deserves that billing.

“Little Big Red”: For those who love Secretariat – and who doesn’t? – here’s a new collectible: a pewter figurine of the 1973 Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown winner.

It’s a beautiful little piece – only 2 ½” wide and 2” tall –  and comes with a felt-bottomed pedestal, a souvenir 1973 penny and certificate signed by Big Red’s owner, Penny Chenery.  Only 350 were made, and the price is $95 at

“Dancer’s Image: The Forgotten Story of the 1968 Kentucky Derby Winner” by Milton Toby – This paperback book dives into the tale of Peter Fuller’s Dancer’s Image, the winner of the 1968 Derby who, three days later, became the only horse in the now 137-year-old race to be disqualified from that victory.

Post-race tests found traces of an anti-inflammatory drug forbidden on race day in Kentucky, so Dancer’s Image was disqualified and the beaten favorite, Calumet Farm’s Forward Pass, was elevated to the victory.

The disqualification sparked a legal battle lasting years and author Toby, who has written about racing for many years, is a good hand at legal issues.  He also penned “The Complete Equine Law and Business Handbook.”

“Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy” by Alex Brown: The author is an outstanding exercise rider with a big racetracker’s heart and a flair for the written word.

Brown interviewed more than 100 people for the story of Barbaro, the star-crossed winner of the 2006 Kentucky Derby who was felled by a dramatic injury at the start of the Preakness and captured hearts around the world with his courageous battle for life over the next eight months.

While it offers more than 160 photos of Barbaro and those that worked with him through his brief and dramatic life, “Greatness and Goodness” goes well beyond its coffee table format and the British-born Brown does a very good job spinning a tale that is very much worth remembering and retelling.

“Horse Racing Divas” by the Staff and Correspondents for the Blood-Horse: This paperback volume published by the horse racing trade publication “The Blood-Horse” tells the tale of the sport’s recent wave of “Girl Power” embodied by a dozen female stars honored over the past century as “Horse of the Year.”

That roster includes recent stars Lady’s Secret, Azeri, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta, but reaches back to icons of earlier years that include Kentucky Derby winner Regret, Beldame and Twilight Tear.  You can purchase this soft cover edition from Blood-Horse’s Exclusively Equine Web site ( and a Kindle edition is also available via Amazon.

“Inside Track: Insider’s Guide to Horse Racing” by Donna Barton Brothers: This $16.95 soft cover from Eclipse Press is penned by one of the most accomplished female jockeys in history, a former racing analyst at Churchill Downs and now part of NBC Sports’ Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown broadcast team and analyzes races for TVG.

It’s a wonderful handbook for any racing fan, but would be especially valuable for new fans or friends you might be thinking of taking to the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks or any other wonderful day or night at the races.

Exclusively Equine has this one, as will other bookstores and other purveyors of racing gifts.

Kentucky Derby 138 Official Merchandise online at The Derby Store ( All things officially licensed and bearing Derby 138 logos can be found online at Churchill Downs’ “Derby Store” website. Special discounts on selected items are posted each day at the Derby Store through the rest of the shopping season.

Kentucky Derby Museum Gift Shop (  The marvelous gift shop at the museum offers many of the items included on this list, along with a range of gift items from stocking stuffers (Zenyatta ornaments and sets of glasses; Secretariat items; Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby merchandise) to large gift items.  The latter includes a lovely bronze of Aristides, the first Kentucky Derby winner, that can be dropped into my stocking any time.  The Derby Museum Gift Shop also has a great selection of Vineyard Vines Kentucky Derby Collection ties from the 2011 first offering.

Official Kentucky Derby Art from Derby Art Gifts ( – You’ll find posters, limited edition prints, holiday ornaments and other gift items bearing the images created by artist Robert Joyner for Derby and Oaks 138 here.

Tickets to the 2012 “Taste of Derby: Tickets are on sale now for one of the newest Derby Week events. The third annual “Taste of Derby” will bring award-winning chefs and celebrities from racing destinations throughout the U.S. to Louisville on Wednesday, May 3.  Info and tickets are available now at  and Churchill Downs’ online box office at

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