Three Strides Before the Wire: The Dark and Beautiful World of Horse Racing

Overview

Now in paperback, reporter Elizabeth Mitchell introduces her readers to the mysterious, mercurial world of horse racing in a book that's as fast-paced and colorful as a day at the track. Focusing on the 1999 Derby winner Charismatic, Mitchell traces this horse's amazing and ultimately tragic story, from the birth of a foal through its surprising rise to fame. Mitchell also follows the major players in Charismatic's life, including the family who bred him, the trainer, the owners, and the famed jockey Chris ...
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Overview

Now in paperback, reporter Elizabeth Mitchell introduces her readers to the mysterious, mercurial world of horse racing in a book that's as fast-paced and colorful as a day at the track. Focusing on the 1999 Derby winner Charismatic, Mitchell traces this horse's amazing and ultimately tragic story, from the birth of a foal through its surprising rise to fame. Mitchell also follows the major players in Charismatic's life, including the family who bred him, the trainer, the owners, and the famed jockey Chris Antley, whose own story is more tragic than that of his horse. Through these interlocking stories a sense of familiarity with the key players in the industry evolves, as well as a greater understanding of the heart and soul of a sport that has fascinated human beings for centuries.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
In Three Strides Before the Wire, journalist Liz Mitchell traces the pursuit of horse racing's Triple Crown by Charismatic and his trouble-ridden jockey Chris Antley. The story, though, is not just a stirring narrative of two underdogs triumphing. Indeed, this rags-to-riches saga goes sour before the end. Instead, Mitchell has slyly smuggled an exposé of the $7 billion-a-year horseracing business into a riveting racetrack story. That she intertwines these narratives so seamlessly is a testament to her artistry.
Booklist
Mitchell's book possesses an appeal that extends well beyond its subject.
Publishers Weekly
A contributing editor at Newsweek and author of W: Revenge of the Bush Dynasty, Mitchell was drawn into the sport of horse racing by chance. In 1999, Mitchell and her boyfriend, Chuck, then undergoing treatment for leukemia, made a spontaneous trip to the Kentucky Derby. Basing her wager on a portentous dream, Mitchell picked the winning horse, Charismatic, a 20-1 long shot, and thus began her research into Charismatic's story. Almost given up on by his owners and trainers, Charismatic wasn't the only surprise victor that year; his jockey and trainer were also amazing comeback stories. A shy and quiet kid who set several racing records while still a teenager, jockey Chris Antley didn't handle success well. Drugs and depression seemed to have taken their final toll when Antley, who had grown over an inch in a bizarre, late growth spurt, was saddled with an extra 15 pounds (jockeys must maintain strict, low weight to ride). Charismatic's trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, was a champion trainer whose reputation was losing ground to younger trainers. Mitchell weaves these struggles (as well as that of her stricken boyfriend) into a story that raises the question of the importance of luck, fate, work and genetics in the lives of man and beast. Mitchell's easy tone is backed by meticulous research, including original author interviews. Though the stories are often exceedingly poignant, Mitchell is never cloying; this beautiful book makes a distinct contribution to a singularly American sport and culture.

Forecast: Published roughly a year after Laura Hillenbrand's bestselling Seabiscuit, Mitchell's effort proves that, in the right hands, horse racing carries stories with incredible mass appeal.

Tom Wolfe
Three Strides Before the Wire remains a strong contender with Seabiscuit down the backstretch.
Norman Mailer
I didn't know about horse racing until I read Three Strides Before the Wire ... well-written book.
Jane Smiley
. . . the jockey's story is the most interesting and dramatic... Mitchell also fills in, gracefully I think, her own heartbreak . . .
Los Angeles Book Review
Phillip Lopate
a superb job reporting, . . . wonderfully privileged glimpses of a closed world . . . conveys the romance and harsh pathos of the sport.
Library Journal
This eloquently written and well-researched book by Mitchell . . . will be welcomed by racing fans and horse lovers.
Publishers Weekly
Though nonfiction, this book reads like a novel one that includes stories within stories. One is the author's own love story; another is the tale of 1999 Kentucky Derby winner Charismatic, a slow-to-mature racehorse; and another is the story of jockey Chris Antley, a poor boy who succeeds beyond his wildest dreams only to see his good fortune ruined by drugs, alcohol, and depression. Woven into these three stories are anecdotes about famous trainers and jockeys and a brief history of racing and gambling in America. This eloquently written and well-researched book by Mitchell (W: Revenge of the Bush Dynasty), a former executive editor of George magazine and contributing editor to Newsweek, will be welcomed by racing fans and horse lovers who liked Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit, Joe Drape's Race for the Triple Crown, and Jane Smiley's novel Horse Heaven. Recommended for medium to large public libraries and all racing collections. Patsy Gray, Huntsville P.L., AL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Though nonfiction, this book reads like a novel one that includes stories within stories. One is the author's own love story; another is the tale of 1999 Kentucky Derby winner Charismatic, a slow-to-mature racehorse; and another is the story of jockey Chris Antley, a poor boy who succeeds beyond his wildest dreams only to see his good fortune ruined by drugs, alcohol, and depression. Woven into these three stories are anecdotes about famous trainers and jockeys and a brief history of racing and gambling in America. This eloquently written and well-researched book by Mitchell (W: Revenge of the Bush Dynasty), a former executive editor of George magazine and contributing editor to Newsweek, will be welcomed by racing fans and horse lovers who liked Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit, Joe Drape's Race for the Triple Crown, and Jane Smiley's novel Horse Heaven. Recommended for medium to large public libraries and all racing collections. Patsy Gray, Huntsville P.L., AL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From Mitchell (W: Revenge of the Bush Dynasty, not reviewed), the story of the thoroughbred Charismatic and the decidedly troubling story of his jockey. The passion for horses is an old one-even if we have been channeling more of that pleasure of late into automobiles-and those that beat the long odds at racing have a special aura. Such is the case with Charismatic. Despite being a grandson of Secretariat, the horse's performances were spotty if bright. Not so with jockey Chris Antley, who took his craft by storm, a cocky and gifted rider who burned along at a 20% victory rate when other top jocks were humming at 7%. But Antley had a problem-two, in fact: He liked drugs and couldn't keep a handle on his weight. The horse and the man became comeback darlings-Antley over his drugs, Charismatic over his unpromising start-and Mitchell twines the relationship into a smooth braid one can't help cheering on. That the author draws intelligent portraits of other principals-D. Wayne Lukas, the trainer, and Bob Lewis, the owner, plus others of the small handful of Antley friends-adds immeasurably. If Mitchell occasionally loses her focus and windily takes on too much history of the sport or its sidelines of gambling and media play, readers can expect her to get pretty quickly back to the main event. Which is simply that Charismatic, Antley up, went on to win the Kentucky Derby, and then the Preakness, before barely missing the Triple Crown at Belmont. Genuinely touching material about Charismatic's breaking a leg is matched by a parallel story of the dwindling health of Mitchell's lover, who is fighting leukemia, though both tales are overwhelmed by that of Antley's decline and subsequent awful death after theBelmont loss. A good blend of spirit and woe that would have benefited from less of the extraneous for both-spirit and woe-to shine more vividly.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786886227
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 4/16/2003
  • Edition description: 2002 First Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 728,413
  • Product dimensions: 5.18 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Mitchell is the author of W: Revenge of the Bush Dynasty. She was formerly the executive editor of George magazine and features editor of SPIN magazine. She lives in New York City.
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Table of Contents

1 Dream Trip 1
2 Dark Horse 9
3 Bug Boy 46
4 Lucky Fellow 73
5 The Ant 98
6 Morning Glory 128
7 The Hotbox 158
8 The Big Gamble 187
9 Kentucky Derby 197
10 The Devil's Picture Books 221
11 The Preakness 239
12 Handicapping 258
13 The Belmont 275
14 The Longest Odds 302
15 Falling Off 318
16 The Wire 346
Endnotes 367
Index 389
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2004

    Not the greatest- but still enjoyable

    If you adored Seabiscuit: An American Legend and loved Ruffian: Burning From the Start, I think you'll enjoy Three Strides before the Wire. It's colorfully written, but at times is a little slow paced. But overall- I enjoyed it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2002

    Very Disappointing!

    It was extremely frustrating to read this book by an author that clearly knows nothing about horse racing. After the first few glaring errors, she lost all credibility with me. Shouldn't someone with a knowledge of the sport have edited this book? There are many other problems with the book, as well, but the misstatement of facts is the most unforgivable. Chris Antley's story is very compelling and deserves a better author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2002

    A waste of time and a waste of money

    This is possibly one of the worst horse racing books I've read in years. Mitchell clearly tried her best to tease a book out of what should have just been an article. The prose is limp, the research is way too obviously woven throughout the book, and the editing is just plain sloppy. The result is an uninteresting and disappointing book. What I really want to know is who allowed this to go to press?

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