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My Year of the Racehorse: Falling in Love with the Sport of Kings

by Kevin Chong

One day, out of the blue, Vancouver author Kevin Chong decided to become part owner of a racehorse. The mare in question is Blackie, the kind of horse, Chong writes, that resembles a suspicious character you invite into your home only after hiding your valuables, medication, and sharp objects. Chong’s experience also afforded him an opportunity to engage in “stunt journalism” about his time in the trenches of the so-called Sport of Kings. The result is a quirky, fast-paced gallop through the exhilaration, heartbreak, and financial responsibility of owning even a small share in a racehorse.

The book’s supporting cast includes the foul-mouthed Randi, a mail carrier who spends all her off-hours training horses, and Carole, a woman who produces transcripts of her spirit-world “conversations” with horses that seem to possess a remarkable mastery of the English language.

Sometimes we learn too much about horses in general: take, for example, the lengthy chapter on how to clean a horse’s penis. At other times, we learn more about Chong himself than he may have intended. The author can be cruel to his best buddies – he laughs unsympathetically at a friend’s post-vasectomy pain – and strives to rekindle romances with old girlfriends, apparently with the primary goal of orchestrating tax-deductible dates to horse-related events. Frankly, Blackie is far more loveable than Chong. And, as we eventually learn, perhaps more reliable.

Apparently, Carole, Randi, and Blackie actually exist. Not so for everyone in this book. Chong admits in an author’s note at the end that in writing this work of non-fiction, he changed, exaggerated, or invented characters, names, dates, situations, and conversations. This admission will cause some readers to wonder just how much of this story is invented and how much actually happened the way it’s described in the book. Does it matter? Not really. Chong’s tale has the ring of truth to it: we feel his joy and pain throughout. And we learn a heck of a lot about the world of racehorses, even if some of it is on the order of equine penile hygiene.