Wild Ride: The Rise and Fall of Calumet Farm INC. , America's Premier Racing Dynasty

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In the vast farmlands of the Bluegrass, night brings a deep and layered darkness that hovers over the land like a heavy fog. Faraway lights on rafters and spires appear closer than they are, and sounds are difficult to discern. The backfiring of a pickup might be mistaken for a gunshot, or the simple creaking of a barn door could be confused with an animal's cry... On one such night in November 1990, Alydar, the thoroughbred industry's preeminent sire, was found mysteriously injured in his stall. Despite ...
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Overview

In the vast farmlands of the Bluegrass, night brings a deep and layered darkness that hovers over the land like a heavy fog. Faraway lights on rafters and spires appear closer than they are, and sounds are difficult to discern. The backfiring of a pickup might be mistaken for a gunshot, or the simple creaking of a barn door could be confused with an animal's cry... On one such night in November 1990, Alydar, the thoroughbred industry's preeminent sire, was found mysteriously injured in his stall. Despite extraordinary veterinary efforts, the stallion, insured for $36.5 million, was put down hours later. So begins the tragic demise of Calumet Farm and one of America's largest family fortunes. Wild Ride is Ann Hagedorn Auerbach's investigation of the fast-track, multibillion-dollar thoroughbred industry and of the fall of Calumet - the inside story of a financial debacle that reached farther than anyone could have imagined. Founded in 1924 by Chicago mogul William Monroe Wright, Calumet Farm was to the world of thoroughbred racing what the New York Yankees were to baseball or the Boston Celtics to basketball - a sports dynasty. The stable bred so many superstars that it became the standard by which all achievements were measured in the horse racing industry. But during the 1980s, J. T. Lundy, the son of a sharecropper who married a Wright heir and whose lifelong dream was to rule Calumet, swept the stately institution into a high-stakes venture that all too quickly became a web of financial schemes involving notorious deal makers, huge bank loans, priceless art, jet planes, and alleged Mafia ties. By the fall of 1990, no one - not the media, the banks, or the family - knew how financially destitute Calumet had become. Beyond its pristine white fences was a house of cards soon to collapse into a morass of lawsuits and despair, revealing the secrets of a family, an industry, and a decade of greed. Through astute investigative reporting, the author pieces together t

In its heyday, Calumet Farm dominated the sport of kings, but during the 1980s, the high-stakes business that had developed around its blueblood roots began to unravel. "Race fans will love the book, of course, but so will anybody interested in recent cultural history, for Wild Ride is as much about 1980s greed as it is about horses."--Los Angeles Times.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Journalist Auerbach untangles the spiderweb of financial machinations that enveloped, consumed, and ultimately destroyed one of the most famous horseracing stables in the world. Through three generations of the Wright family, Calumet led, lost, and regained its preeminence as a breeding farm and racing stable only to lose everything, including the family's fortune, in the fourth generation. Chronicling the history of Calumet and its fall into the depths of massive debt, this well-researched, fast-paced book sheds new light on the destruction of Calumet and exposes the excesses of the 1980s. Highly recommended.-Susan Hamburger, Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park
Dennis Dodge
For nearly 60 years, William Monroe Wright, his son Warren Wright, and the latter's widow, Lucille Wright Markey, built Kentucky's Calumet Farm into the most successful thoroughbred breeding and racing operation in the U.S. Within a decade of Markey's death in 1982, however, the farm that had been home to Whirlaway, Citation, and Alydar, a farm that had always operated without debt, was in ruins. Where did all the money go? The answers provided by Auerbach read like a litany of the excesses of the 1980s: obsessive deal-making, massive borrowing, and unconscionable extravagance, all in the face of a precipitous decline in the market for thoroughbreds brought on by Reagan administration tax policies. And then there is the tantalizing suggestion of corruption. Auerbach follows the money trail like a bloodhound yet she cannot account for up to $100 million of the funds that flowed through Calumet during the reign of farm president J. T. Lundy. Nor can she fully explain the death of the farm's top sire and major asset, Alydar, who was almost surely worth more dead than alive by the time he was found in his stall with a fractured leg in 1990. Auerbach meticulously re-creates the events that led to the demise of Calumet Farm, but she cannot dissolve all the mysteries associated with the calamity. That's just as well. Horse people love to gossip and speculate, and this book is grist for their mill.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805020038
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/5/1994
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 438

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