The book itself is an interesting, fast-paced combination of memoir and non-fiction, with a little essay thrown in here and there. The author talks about his relationship with his father--the sportswriter of the title--in a way that is sentimental but not maudlin. He also weaves in various horse-related subjects. The jumping-off point is that near the end of his life, asked to name his best memory from the sports events he'd covered, the author's father named Secretariat's Kentucky Derby. I might have to agree with his choice. Secretariat didn't just win the Derby convincingly, he did it by running each quarter of the race faster than the one before it. In other words, Secretariat was still accelerating when he crossed the finish line. Horses just don't do that.
Because of his father's statement, the author got interested in Thoroughbred racing, and this book is the result. I was a little distracted here and there by some inaccuracies (he has trouble keeping straight the difference between a bridle and a halter, for example), but overall this is a very enjoyable read regardless of whether you are a horse person.
And the best part for me? I had been researching a fairly obscure point to include in an article I'm collaborating on at work, and having trouble finding just the right information for what I wanted to say. While reading this book purely for pleasure, lo and behold, I stumbled upon exactly the information I needed! Don't you just love it when the Universe sends you stuff like that? I sure do.
Excerpt: [At the Keeneland yearling auction:] The pavilion was all motion, people and horses making figure eights from one end to the other, assistants whispering on cell phones, race fans wandering aimlessly. There are so many things happening in so many different places at a yearling sale (and in this it is utterly unlike a traditional auction) that I quickly got disoriented trying to put the picture together: it was like trying to learn economics by standing on the floor of the stock exchange. Conversations at these sales tend to be short and vague--everyone's eyes are continuously moving, taking in the parade of potential, not wanting to miss the one.