Arts & Culture

Delightful Derby Reads

Three new pony-related books just in time for race season—plus, one visual stunner to make your coffee table an ode to all things equestrian

American Pharoah: The Untold Story of the Triple Crown Winner’s Legendary Rise
By Joe Drape

“I was beginning to believe that I was never going to see a horse capture the Triple Crown,” writes New York Times sportswriter Joe Drape. Lucky for him—and us—he watched the rise of American Pharoah, the most important thoroughbred in modern history who, last June, became the first racehorse in thirty-seven years to win the Triple Crown. Through in-the-moment reporting plus interviews with the horse’s owner, trainer, and jockey, Drape takes the reader behind the gate for the inside story of American Pharoah’s climb, and to the track for every dust-flying, crowd-roaring minute.

The Sport of Kings
By C. E. Morgan

Expect this novel to show up in many summer reading lists and book clubs. It’s a piece of Southern gothic fiction with horses at the heart. Author C. E. Morgan sets the story in her resident state of Kentucky, and winds through generations of a Bluegrass family’s obsession with horses, their homeland, and the moral questions that will determine their fates.

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

Folks today wouldn’t recognize the subdued 1918 Kentucky Derby. With thousands of young men deployed overseas, women skipped wearing ornate hats, and many Americans thought the race was ostentatious for a country at war. So when a long-shot American horse by the name of Exterminator bolted past his 30-1 odds—and foreign-born colts—to win the Run for the Roses, it provided a much-needed jolt of energy and patriotism. Exterminator’s come-from-behind story captured hearts (and still-standing records, such as 33 stakes wins by a North American thoroughbred) as told in this deeply researched profile.

Exterminator on Derby Day 1918.

Photo: Courtesy of Churchill Downs/Kinetic

Exterminator on Derby Day 1918.


The Kentucky Derby
By Bill Doolittle

One of the historians behind the creation of the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, Bill Doolittle had plenty of material to choose from when he compiled this coffee-table tome on the past and present of the greatest two minutes in sports. The book gathers archival photos, interviews, essays, and trivia together with dozens of full-color photographs that will make you the most in-the-know spectator at this year’s party.

The 139th Derby in 2013.

Photo: Photograph for editorial use only by Gail Kamenish

The 139th Derby in 2013.