BOOK REVIEW OF “THE GLORIOUS RUN OF ALYSHEBA”

Midland, Texas has been home to some of the most notable people in both the Lone Star state and globally, including two presidents of the United States, George H. W. Bush and his son George W. Bush, and 4-star General Tommy Franks.  Several successful racehorse owners have Midland connections as well–for example, Ralph Lowe (Gallant Man) and Barry Beal and Robert French (Capote and Landaluce).  The name Scharbauer has been prominent in Midland for over 125 years…in ranching, oil, banking, and horses, especially a horse called Alysheba.

In 1959, Midland wildcatter and racehorse owner Fred Turner won the Kentucky Derby with Tomy Lee, ridden by Bill Shoemaker and conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Frank Childs.  A quarter of a century later, Turner’s daughter Dorothy, wife to Clarence Scharbauer Jr., decided that she wanted to try to repeat the thrill she and Clarence experienced at Churchill Downs when her father’s horse won the Kentucky Derby.  Author Jimmy Patterson (not to be confused with the novelist James Patterson) has masterfully chronicled the chain of events that ended with Dorothy achieving her goal.

Award-winning author Patterson, whose previous books include “The Story of Midland Texas” (2014), had the cooperation and first-hand accounts of three of the key players in the Alysheba story: Preston Madden, the colt’s breeder; Jack Van Berg, Hall of Fame trainer; and Chris McCarron, Hall of Fame jockey. Clarence and Dorothy Scharbauer are deceased, as is their daughter Pamela Scharbauer, who co-owned Alysheba with her mother.

Alysheba’s path to racing fame began when the Scharbauer’s purchased him in 1985 for $500,000 (equivalent to about $1.4 million in 2022) at the Keeneland yearling sale and culminated with the colt winning the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Classic.  He retired with earnings of $6,679,242 (equal to $16.5 million in 2022) from 26 lifetime starts, in which he had a record of 11 wins, 8 seconds, and 2 thirds. 

Alysheba’s winning run in the 1987 Kentucky Derby came close to ending in tragedy. About a sixteenth of a mile from the finish line, Alysheba was running second and clipped heels with the leader Bet Twice and nearly fell.  McCarron was able to steady the colt, who somehow recovered and courageously rallied to pass Bet Twice.  A pileup of horses had been averted and Alysheba was on his way to a storied career. Besides being in American racing’s Hall of Fame, he is number 46 on Bloodhorse magazine’s list of the 100 best American racehorses of the twentieth century.

“The Glorious Run of Alysheba” is 112 pages in length, is very well researched, and the presentation flows smoothly. Racing fans who remember watching Alysheba can enjoy revisiting his exploits and fans without that recollection can learn about a remarkable racehorse and fan favorite.

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