The Longest Shot: Lil E. Tee and the Kentucky Derby / Edition 2

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On the first Saturday in May every year in Louisville, Kentucky, shortly after 5:30 PM, a new horse attains racing immortality. The Kentucky Derby is like no other race, and its winners are the finest horses in the world. Covered in rich red roses, surrounded by flashing cameras and admiring crowds, these instant celebrities bear names like Citation, Secretariat, Spectacular Bid, and Seattle Slew. They're worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. But in 1992, a funny thing happened on the way to the roses. The rattling roar of 130,000 voices tailed off into a high, hollow shriek as the horses crossed the finish line.

Lil E. Tee? ABC broadcasters knew nothing about him, but they weren't alone. Who knew about Lil E. Tee? A blacksmith in Ocala, Florida, a veterinary surgeon in Ringoes, New Jersey, a trainer a Calder Race Course, and a few other people used to dealing with average horses knew this horse — and realized what a long shot Lil E. Tee really was.

On a Pennsylvania farm that raised mostly trotting horses, a colt with a dime-store pedigree was born in 1989. His odd gait and tendency to bellow for his mother earned him the nickname "E.T." Suffering from an immune deficiency and a bad case of colic, he survived surgery that usually ends a horse's racing career. Bloodstock agents dismissed him because of his mediocre breeding, and once he was sold for only $3,000. He'd live in five barns in seven states by the time he turned two. Somehow, this horse became one of the biggest underdogs to appear on the American sporting landscape.

Lil E. Tee overcame his bleak beginnings to reach the respected hands of trainer Lynn Whiting, jockey Pat Day, and owner Cal Partee. After winning the Jim Beam stakes and finishing second in the Arkansas Derby, Lil E. Tee arrived at Churchill Downs to face a field of seventeen horses, including the highly acclaimed favorite, Arazi, a horse many people forecast to become the next Secretariat. A 17-to-1 longshot, Lil E. Tee won the Derby with a classic rally down the home stretch, and finally Pat Day had jockeyed a horse to Derby victory.

John Eisenberg draws on more than fifteen years of sports writing experience and a hundred interviews throughout Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Florida, and Arkansas to tell the story almost nobody knew in 1992. Eisenberg is a sports columnist for the Baltimore Sun and has won more than twenty awards for his sports writing, including several Associated Press sports editors' first places."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"One of the most remarkable stories in the history of a sport rife with the stuff of fairy tales.... Fascinating reading." — Booklist

"A really well-written, unpretentious, and more remarkable rags-to-riches story." — Racing Post

"Eisenberg's relentless research and eye for detail flesh out what already was a great Hollywood-style script into an equine epic. And, thanks to his easygoing storytelling voice, it is every bit as compelling as a novel." — Spur

Library Journal
This is an inspiring account of the victory of Lil E. Tee in the 1992 Kentucky Derby. Born with an undistinguished pedigree in a minor breeding state (Pennsylvania), surviving prolonged colic and enduring shin problems, this virtually unwanted horse triumphed over much more heralded and significantly more expensive competition. Eisenberg, a Baltimore Sun sportswriter and seasoned racing commentator, interviewed scores of people to piece together a smooth composite of this unlikely odyssey. In so doing, he creates good character profiles of many who were a part of Lil E. Tee's drama, especially the owner, trainer, and jockey at the time of the Derby. The book provides a fair glimpse into the process of a thoroughbred's development and a solid appreciation of the chancy and narrow avenue to the Kentucky Derby. Well written, enjoyable to read, and guaranteed to move many readers, this is heartily recommended.-David Van de Streek, Pennsylvania State Univ. Libs., York
An inspiring underdog story of the horse Lil E. Tee, a 17 to 1 longshot who won the Kentucky Derby in 1992. Eisenberg, a sports writer for the Baltimore Sun, has a sense of the dramatic and a lively prose style which suits the remarkable story of the horse named E.T. (because it bellowed for its mother) who was of mediocre breed and stock, weak constitution, and was at one time sold for only $3,000. Lil E.T. became the Rocky of horse racing, inspiring the same kind of stand up and shout enthusiasm the public reserves for its littler-than-life heroes, and Eisenberg is faithful to the myth. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813190334
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 11/7/2011
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,462,676
  • Product dimensions: 0.52 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

John Eisenberg

John Eisenberg was an award-winning sports columnist at The Baltimore Sun for two decades, and is the author of seven books, most recently My Guy Barbaro, co-written with Hall of Fame horse racing jockey Edgar Prado, and The Great Match Race. He has written for Smithsonian Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and Details, among other publications.
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