The two runners-up, Dorothy Ours and Patrick Smithwick, received trophies. Ours wrote Man o’ War, A Legend Like Lightning, and Smithwick wrote Racing My Father, about growing up the son of Racing Hall of Fame steeplechase jockey A. P. “Paddy” Smithwick. The award recognized work published in 2006.
Drape, a reporter for the New York Times, was presented the winning check by Dr. Tony Ryan, owner of Castleton Lyons, a Thoroughbred farm that stands seven stallions and is situated on some of the most historic lands in racing and breeding.
“The three finalists this year are all outstanding books,” said Dr. Ryan. “The winning author, Joe Drape, wrote a cracking good book on the life of Jimmy Winkfield and is a great standardbearer as the first winner of this award.
“One of the reasons we created this award was to help promote the great sport of horse racing. By recognizing and honoring outstanding literature, I think this helps do that. We plan to immediately start work on the 2007 award and continue to sponsor this event in future years. We are delighted with the outcome of the first award and encouraged by the response we received.”
Drape has won numerous news and sports writing awards, including an Eclipse Award for news writing in 2002. He previously authored the book The Race for the Triple Crown. Drape’s award-winning book, Black Maestro, published by Harper Collins, chronicled the life of Jimmy Winkfield, the last African-American jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. Through meticulous research and brilliant writing, Drape transports the reader back to early 1900s America, revealing the horrors of rampant racism and Jim Crow laws that sent a two-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey packing off to czarist Russia.
“I’d like to thank Dr. Ryan and the Thoroughbred Times for this great honor,” said Drape.
“There was some great books written this past year and any one of the finalists would have been worthy of this award. I got the bob this year, and that is humbling. I think I speak for all who write about horse racing, when I say this award is especially gratifying for those of us who write about a sport that we are passionate about. I know it is given by people who love the animals, and the mystery and the beauty of Thoroughbred racing.
“As authors, we sit in rooms for years and work on these books in the hope of creating a world and a story that people want to read and experience. I knew Jimmy Winkfield’s remarkable life deserved a wider audience and I’m proud some folks thought I told it well. There are so many books that I’ve read over the years that would have benefited from this sort of recognition. I’m fortunate that I’m the first, and I know there are going to be tremendous books honored in the future.”
“Dr. Ryan is the creative founder of this award,” said Mark Simon, editor in chief of Thoroughbred Times, a Lexington-based weekly news magazine written for owners and breeders. “He came to me with the idea a year ago, about creating a book award, and partnering with Thoroughbred Times, and I thought it was a terrific concept, because racing had no mechanism to recognize and honor great literature.
"Racing has Eclipse Awards for news writing and feature writing, but nothing for books. There was a void that needed to be filled, and Dr. Ryan, a man who has long supported the arts, came up with a great way of rewarding and recognizing authors who make important contributions to racing. We at Thoroughbred Times are honored to participate in this unique award.”
A panel of judges made up of recognized writers, authors, and editors selected the three titles to contend for the Book Award, to honor work published in 2006. The judges were Kay Coyte, Audrey Korotkin, Roberta Smoodin, and Jim Squires. Coyte, an editor with the Washington Post since 1982, is currently with the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post news service. Korotkin was the first executive director of Triple Crown Productions and an Eclipse Award-winning radio broadcaster. Smoodin, author of four novels, is a former professor at the University of Kentucky and also taught at University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, and now owns and operates a horse farm in Georgetown, Kentucky. Squires, former editor of the Chicago Tribune, operates Two Bucks Farm in Versailles, Kentucky, and bred 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos and authored several books, including Horse of a Different Color.
Mary Simon, Book Editor for Thoroughbred Times, was the coordinator of the judging committee and oversaw the selection process.