What will Kentucky Book Festival visitors find on your table?
My newest release, The Foxes of Belair: Gallant Fox, Omaha, and the Quest for the Triple Crown (University Press of Kentucky, 2023), tells a unique story amongst the many that the sport of horse racing contains: the story of sire and son Triple Crown winners. William Woodward’s childhood memory of a conversation with his father inspired him to build a breeding and racing operation that could win the sport’s great races, including the Epsom Derby. In the process, he breeds Gallant Fox, who goes on to win the second Triple Crown, and then the Fox, in turn, produces Omaha, who also wins the Triple Crown. Woodward’s pursuit of those races sends the nascent achievement to another level, taking what Sir Barton had pioneered and sending it on the path toward becoming the essential part of the racing calendar that it is now.
The Foxes was made possible by Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown, published in 2019 by the University Press of Kentucky. The book chronicles the life and career of America’s first Triple Crown winner, who won all three races in 1919. Sir Barton’s achievement is part of a transitional moment in the sport as the anti-gambling movements that nearly killed racing nearly a decade earlier give way to the demand for diversion in post-World War I America. His time on the racetrack intersects with Man o’ War’s, the two finally meeting in a match race in late 1920. Sir Barton’s story captures a moment in time as horse racing regains its spot in the American sporting imagination.
Whom do you invite to stop by? Who will benefit from reading your book?
Kentucky is the heart of horse country in America, the hub of all forms of equine sports from racing to dressage. I hope to see horse lovers of all stripes and fans who enjoy exploring where familiar traditions become an integral part of our sporting lives.
As someone who studied history in college, I cherish the chance to work on unexplored topics in both American and sports history. The joys of books like The Foxes of Belair and Sir Barton is studying not just the horses’ careers but also to look at their contexts, which both influence and are influenced by the intersection of people and places.
Could you please tell us something curious about you and/or your book?
Growing up in Alabama, I had no connection to the sport of horse racing until my fifth grade teacher read The Black Stallion to us. Not too long after that, my aunt took me to the Birmingham Race Course for my first live racing experience – at age 12. I was hooked.
Is this your first time participating in Kentucky Book Festival? If yes – what are you looking forward to the most? If you’ve participated before – what was your favorite experience at the Festival?
My first Kentucky Book Festival was 2019, when I was promoting Sir Barton. I had a blast. I was able to meet other authors in person, which was a fun chance to bond over the shared experience of writing and promoting books, and I got to finish my book tour on a high note, meeting even more readers in the Bluegrass.
I hope for the same in 2023. The Kentucky Book Festival is sure to be a fun experience as we round out the book tour for The Foxes of Belair.
Jennifer S. Kelly is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in TwinSpires, Paulick Report, America’s Best Racing, and The Racing Biz. This book examines the racing legacies of Gallant Fox and Omaha and how William Woodward’s service to racing during the 20th century changed the landscape of the American Thoroughbred industry.