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The audacious and inspired history of horse racing told through the bloodline of twenty-five exceptional Arabian steeds.
In 1704 a bankrupt English merchant sent home the colt he had bought from Bedouin tribesmen near the ruins of Palmyra. Thomas Darley hoped this horse might be the ticket to a new life back in Yorkshire. But he turned out to be far more than that, and although Mr. Darley's Arabian never ran a race, 95% of all thoroughbreds in the world today are descended from him. In this book, for the first time, award-winning racing writer Christopher McGrath traces this extraordinary bloodline through twenty-five generations to our greatest modern racehorse, Frankel.
The story of racing is about man's relationship with horses, and Mr. Darley's Arabian also celebrates the men and women who owned, trained and traded the stallions that extended the dynasty. The great Eclipse, for instance, was bred by the Duke who foiled Bonnie Prince Charlie's invasion (with militia gathered from Wakefield races) and went on to lead the Jockey Club. But he only became a success once bought and raced by a card-sharp and brothel-keeper - the racecourse has always brought high and low life together.
McGrath expertly guides us through three centuries of scandals, adventures and fortunes won and lost: our sporting life offers a fascinating view into our history. With a canvas that extends from the diamond mines of South Africa to the trenches of the Great War, and a cast ranging from Smithfield meat salesmen to the inspiration for Mr Toad, and from legendary jockeys to not one, but two disreputable Princes of Wales (and a very unamused Queen Victoria), Mr. Darley's Arabian shows us the many faces of the sport of kings.
Christopher McGrath has won multiple awards as a racing correspondent, for seven years with the Independent (London). He has been voted Racing Journalist of the Year and commended as Specialist Correspondent at the UK Sports Journalism Awards. He has interviewed many leading figures on the international Turf, and also contributes a regular column on other sports. This is his first book. He lives in England.
"McGrath has produced a racing book like no other—a book of remarkable scope. For the horsemen the racing careers of great horses are there. But McGrath’s book will be read by a much wider public for its lively social history." The Spectator (UK)
"Ambitious and unique. McGrath unrolls a remarkable history of thoroughbred racing in England over 300 years." Wall Street Journal
"Fascinating. This isn’t just a book about horse lineage. The wonder of it is how McGrath manages to use the bloodline to trace so much else. A stunner of a book, deserving of an audience much beyond horse-racing fans." Booklist (starred)
"A fascinating book. McGrath’s book is erudite, his style wry and his descriptions of horses and men astute." The Sunday Times (London)
"Devoted subjects of the sport of kings will adore the historical diversions." Publishers Weekly
"Chris McGrath has provided us with an important addition to the history of horse racing." The International Journal of the History of Sport
"This is a history about the sport of kings—horse racing—as told through the bloodlines of 25 horses. But like Seabiscuit, critics say this entertaining work is so filled with memorable characters and details of the distant times in which these champions competed that even those who've never clutched a ticket stub and cheered on a filly will be enthralled." BookFilter
"McGrath has the advantage of being a superbly gifted writer. He can wield a dependent clause like a stiletto. And his access to today’s mightiest figures in racing greatly enhances the book’s final sections. For both popular and scholarly readers who love horses and horse stories, the book is amply worth reading." Equine History Collective