A recently published book that I purchased for reading over the holidays is one that Santa Claus would be advised to deliver to racing fans:  Better Lucky Than Good: Tall Tales And Straight Talk From The Backside of the Track.

The book is published by the Louisville [Kentucky] Story Program, a nonprofit that “strengthens the bonds of community by amplifying unheard voices and untold stories.”  Better Lucky Than Good superbly achieves this mission by profiling folks who work on the backside at Churchill Downs—as well as some of the businesspeople who serve them in the poor neighborhood surrounding the famed racetrack–hard-working individuals who labor in relative obscurity. 

Better Lucky Than Good has no vignettes about high-profile owners or trainers.  Rather, it is full of first-person narratives from behind-the-scenes characters who keep the railroad running, so to speak—grooms, exercise riders, farriers, assistant trainers, and more.  The book “took three years to engage backside workers and residents of South Louisville in conversations and a collaboration that…led to the most caring, in-depth look into the lives and stories of equine workers ever published.”

In all, Better Lucky Than Good contains 32 vignettes or short chapters that take the reader into a fascinating world of its own.  One can learn about the life of a female exercise rider from near Seattle who is also an MMA fighter.  Or about how a former Peace Corp volunteer from Indiana came to head up the Backside Learning Center.  The grandson of the founder of Wagner’s Pharmacy, where racetrackers like to eat breakfast or lunch, describes the long history of the ramshackle place.  A groom from Mexico tells of his journey into the world of horse racing. 

Photographs accompany these and other intriguing stories.

I don’t know anyone at Louisville Story Program, but appreciate the unique and entertaining perspectives provided in Better Lucky Than Good.  “Tall tales and Straight Talk from the backside of the track” is an apt description.

Copyright © 2019 Horse Racing Business

(Better Lucky Than Good is available new in paperback at $30 plus shipping at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or LouisvilleStoryProgram.org.)