The Darley Arabian is one of three foundation sires of the contemporary Thoroughbred breed and the most dominant of the three in today’s pedigrees.  Christopher McGrath, a multiple award-winning journalist in Great Britain, chronicles the importation of the Darley Arabian to England and his influence on the Thoroughbred breed to the present day in his 2017 book titled Mr. Darley’s Arabian (363 pages in the hardback edition).  The last chapter is devoted to the undefeated Frankel, a super-talented horse in the Darley Arabian line.

The inside cover of Mr. McGrath’s book reads:

“In 1704, a bankrupt English merchant sent home the colt he had bought from Bedouin tribesmen near the ruins of Palmyra.  Thomas Darley hoped this horse might be the ticket to a new life back in Yorkshire.  But he turned out to be far more than that, and although Mr. Darley’s Arabian never ran a race, 95% of all thoroughbreds in the world today are descended from him.”

The title of the book is misleading in that the content is not just about dry and esoteric horse pedigrees and influential sires emanating from the Darley Arabian.  Mr. McGrath interspersed his narrative with brought-to-life characters from the various eras between 1704 and now, including lots of material on the turf-loving Prince of Wales (nicknamed “Bertie”) and eventually King George IV, whose mother Queen Victoria was no fan of horse racing.

“When the queen implored Bertie to quit the Turf…she had predicted that as king he would belatedly find himself embarrassed by the friends he made there.”  And the Queen “implored Bertie to set an example to a generation that appalled her with its ‘frivolous, pleasure-seeking, heartless, selfish, immoral, gambling’ ways’… she urged him to distance himself from the ignorance and self-indulgence of his male companions, and young women ‘so fast, frivolous, and imprudent.’”

In order to find this book of interest, a reader needs to have an extant interest in Thoroughbred breeding.  Then, he or she can soak up the history of the Darley Arabian line while learning of what it was like in the life and times of great Thoroughbreds and breeders of them like Federico Tesio, E. P. Taylor, and John Magnier.

Mr. McGrath’s writing style is smooth and fluid, though his choice of words is not for a reader with a limited vocabulary.

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