April 16, 2015
Shane Ryan, president of Castleton Lyons presents winner’s check to Andy Plattner (photo by Michele MacDonald)
Plattner wins Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award
Lexington, Ky. -- Offerings From a Rust Belt Jockey, by Andrew Plattner and published by Dzanc Books of Ann Arbor, Mich., was named winner of the $10,000 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award at an April 15 reception at Shane Ryan’s Castleton Lyons farm near Lexington. A fictional story about the travails of a frustrated third-tier jockey became the second novel to take the award, following Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrulein 2010. The Award was conceived in 2006 by the late Dr. Tony Ryan and has since been presented annually by the Ryan family.
Plattner, who won the prestigious 1997 Flannery O’ Connor Award for his collection of stories called Winter Money, was a Dr. Tony Ryan finalist in 2009 for a lush coffee-table book called Kentucky Derby Vault, and in 2012 earned finalist status in the Townsend Prize for Fiction for the short story collection, "A Marriage of Convenience.”
The author, a Lexington native who grew up around the racetrack, bases many of his fictional characters on people he has encountered. Plattner is currently a visiting professor of English at the University of Tampa.
The other two finalists were Northern Dancer—The Legendary Horse That Inspired a Nation, by Kevin Chong; and RaceLens—Vintage Thoroughbred Racing Images, by Philip Von Borries.
In addition to the $10,000 check, presented by Dr. Ryan’s son and Castleton Lyons president Shane Ryan, the winner received a Tipperary Irish crystal trophy in the shape of the Lexington farm’s distinctive medieval-style tower. Runners-up each received $1,000 and similar trophies. Upwards of 100 people attended the reception held in a loft above the historic stallion barn, home today to triple Eclipse Award winner Gio Ponti and Grade 1 winner Justin Phillip.
The judging panel for 2014 was comprised of Washington Post-Bloomberg News Service Managing Editor Kay Coyte; award-winning broadcast journalist and TVG/HRTV producer Caton Bredar; and freelance sportswriter David Owen, who won the 2013 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award with Foinavon: The Story of the Grand National’s Biggest Upset.
Said head judge Kay Coyte of the winning entry, "Plattner has taken a short-story kernel and nurtured it into a novel that’s an unflinching look at real lives that revolve around racing’s low-rent district. It is a backstretch noir that captures the hope and desperation of a struggling, middle-age jockey who tasted major-league success. In Rust Belt, he is dead-on in his descriptions of a rider’s far-from-glamorous day-to-day, season-to-season hustle. It’s not easy to write racing fiction free from cliché, but Plattner does that here. He’s a master of dialogue.”
David Owen said: "You could hardly imagine more diverse books about horse racing than the three finalists. What really set Rust Belt Jockey apart from other fictional entries for me was the author's ear for dialogue. It's as much about what you leave out as what you put in, and it's so hard to get right. Plattner was pitch perfect.”
Said judge Caton Bredar of the winner: "Expanding on an intriguing and elegant short story written several years ago, Andy Plattner takes us into the heart and soul—or, at times, lack thereof—of a small-time jockey and the horses and people that make up his world. Alternating between hope and melancholy, Plattner expertly uses language to paint the often wistful world of horse racing on the small town stage.”
Originally called the Castleton Lyons-Thoroughbred Times Book Award, the competition was renamed in 2008 to honor the memory of Dr. Ryan, founder of Ryanair and Castleton Lyons who died in 2007. Dr. Ryan drew upon his passions for horse racing and fine writing when he launched the award in 2006.