AND THEN THERE WERE THREE..

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After months of reading, evaluating, and scoring, judges have selected three outstanding books as finalists
By Mary Simon (Courtesy of The Thoroughbred Times)

The late Dr. Tony Ryan was a visionary with broad interests and a man who knew how to get things done, be it in business, education, the arts, or horse racing.  In 1985, the Irish entrepreneur launched the successful low-fare European airline Ryanair; less than a decade later, he funded the cutting-edge Marine Science Institute at the National University of Ireland; and in 2001, he brought Thoroughbreds back to James R. Keene's historic Kentucky-based Castleton Farm-now Castleton Lyons-for the first time in nearly a century.

Five years ago, Ryan wedded his interest in the arts and racing when he masterminded an important literary award.  He conceived the idea of promoting the sport of kings by recognizing the best racing-related books published in a given year, and proposed to do so in a breathtaking way: His offer of a $10,000 winner's prize rivaled those of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

Soon after, Ryan enlisted THOROUGHBRED TIMES as a promotional partner and coordinator in what would initially be known as the Castleton Lyons-THOROUGHBRED TIMES Book Award.  In April 2007, inaugural honors went to New York Times sportswriter Joe Drape, for Black Maestro, a biography of early 20th-century African-American jockey Jimmy Winkfield.  Following Ryan's death in 2007, the competition was renamed to honor his memory.  Now in its fourth year, the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award continues under the stewardship of his son, Shane.

Ryan would no doubt have approved of the current finalists--three exceptional, very different works, each representing the apex of racing-genre books published in 2009.  Full of heart, humor, and a deep respect for the sport's storied past, as well as an abiding love for the animals and people who power its engine, they include a compassionatelook at what it takes to save an ex-racehorse; a lively jaunt through the life of a true man for all seasons; and a stunning tribute to one of America's premier sporting events.

The authors will be present for a book signing at Keeneland Race Course on the afternoon of April 23.  That evening, an invitation-only cocktail and hors d'oeuvres reception announcing the winner will once again be held at Castleton Lyons, outside of Lexington, in the loft above the famed barn where such long-ago immortals Domino, Commando, and Peter Pan once held court. 

The winner will receive a check for $10,000 and a trophy made of custom-designed Irish crystal, a replica of the magnificent fieldstone tower Ryan had erected on the property in 2003.  Runners-up will each receive $1,000 and a trophy. 

The 2009 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award Finalists:

Beyond the Homestretch: What I've Learned from Saving Racehorses
Author: Lynn Reardon
Publisher: New World Library


Keeneland's Ted Bassett: My Life
Authors: James E. "Ted" Bassett III and Bill Mooney
Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky


The Kentucky Derby Vault: A History of the Run for the Roses
Author: Andrew Plattner
Publisher: Whitman Publishing



Judges
Rudolph Valier Alvarado, Ph.D.
Dr. Rudolph Valier Alvarado earned a Ph.D. in fine arts from Texas Tech University and a Master of Arts in history from Eastern Michigan Univeristy, where he was a University Fellow and a Parks/King/Chavez Fellow.

Alvarado's books have ben published by the University of Michigan Press, Michigan State University Press, Texas A&M University Press, Alpha Books of New York, and Arte Publico Press.

Alvarado currently serves as chief executive officer and publisher of Caballo Press of Ann Arbor.


Alvarado's biography, The Untold Story of Joe Hernandez: The Voice of Santa Anita, won the 2008 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award presented by Castleton Lyons and THOROUGHBRED TIMES.

Kay Coyte
Kay Coyte, of Arlington, Virginia, is an Eclipse and American Horse Publications award-winning photographer and former editor and publisher of The Horsemen's Journal Thoroughbred racing magazine.  She has been with the Washington Post as an editor since 1982, currently with the Washington Post-Bloomberg News Service.  Earlier in her career, she covered racing for The Saratogian newspaper in Saratoga Springs, New York, and her freelance articles have appeared in several racing and sports magazines. 

In recent years, she has served as a judge for both the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award and for the American Horse Publications' feature writing competition. 

She grew up in Louisville, where her father was a longtime executive at Churchill Downs, and graduated from the University of Kentucky, working with racehorses and prepping yearlings in her spare time.  She is horseless now but has owned two in her life so far-both Appaloosas.

Coyte also is a board member for Focus, a not-for-profit group in the Washington, D.C., area that presents acoustic music concerts.  Coyte is the emcee of Focus' Alexandria, Virginia, venue.


Mary Simon
Mary Simon, a contributing editor for THOROUGHBRED TIMES, has won an Eclipse Award and American Horse Publications awards for feature writing.  She is the author of the books A History of the Thoroughbed in California and Racing Through the Century, the latter based on her 2000 Eclipse Award-winning THOROUGHBRED TIMES series.

In addition, Simon has written for The Thoroughbred Record, Spur, Thoroughbred Business, and Breeders' Cup magazines, as well as for Daily Racing Form.  She has also done advertising copywriting and has scripted videos for the California Thoroughbred Breeders' Association (A Running Start), the Ryan Family Foundation (Quality of Life), and THOROUGHBRED TIMES (A History of the Triple Crown).

Simon grew up in California, where she rode show jumpers and later served as associate editor of The Thoroughbred of California magazine.  In Kentucky, she has worked as a publicity assistant at Keeneland Race Course, a stallion booking manager at Beaconsfield Farm, and as a freelance writer.  She is currently a member of the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame's Historic Review Committee.

Outside of the Thoroughbred Industry, Simon received a degree in social work from the University of Kentucky.  Simon is married to THOROUGHBRED TIMES President and Editor Mark Simon.
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