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Headless Horsemen

A Tale of Chemical Colts, Subprime Sales Agents, and the Last Kentucky Derby on Steroids

James D. Squires

Times Books

A pointed and irreverent critique of thoroughbred racing’s breakdown, by a prominent journalist turned horse breeder

Jim Squires was in trouble. He had gone from one business seemingly intent on committing suicide to another, both led over the cliff by visionless leaders. First it was the newspaper bean-counters’ blind adherence to the demands of Wall Street. Then in horse racing it was a clannish group called “the Dinnies” refusing to share power and unable to see that vast overproduction and unbridled greed had created a subprime-like bubble in the market. Overpriced animals of dubious quality and drug-enhanced performance on the track were undermining the integrity of competition and ultimately the very breed itself. With its economic model broken, its tawdry sales practices under attack, and its public image in tatters after a series of televised fatal breakdowns by horses in famous races, the sport was overdue for a reckoning.

Headless Horsemen is Squires’s comic but poignant critique of what is happening to the sport and the animals he loves, as he and a small group of unlikely heroes agitate for a return to fair dealing. For anyone who cares about the soul and survival of horse racing, this book is an impassioned call to arms.


A pointed and irreverent critique of thoroughbred racing’s breakdown, by a prominent journalist turned horse breeder

Jim Squires was in trouble. He had gone from one business seemingly intent on committing suicide to another, both led over the cliff by visionless leaders. First it was the newspaper bean-counters’ blind adherence to the demands of Wall Street. Then in horse racing it was a clannish group called “the Dinnies” refusing to share power and unable to see that vast overproduction and unbridled greed had created a subprime-like bubble in the market. Overpriced animals of dubious quality and drug-enhanced performance on the track were undermining the integrity of competition and ultimately the very breed itself. With its economic model broken, its tawdry sales practices under attack, and its public image in tatters after a series of televised fatal breakdowns by horses in famous races, the sport was overdue for a reckoning.

Headless Horsemen is Squires’s comic but poignant critique of what is happening to the sport and the animals he loves, as he and a small group of unlikely heroes agitate for a return to fair dealing. For anyone who cares about the soul and survival of horse racing, this book is an impassioned call to arms.


BOOK EXCERPTS

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Headless Horsemen
PART ONERUMBLINGS1A LILY FOR THE DEPARTEDSomething had definitely gone haywire. Breaking into tears at the realization that Greg Norman had just failed to win the British Open at age fifty-three to become the oldest golfer ever to win a Major Championship is hard evidence of pending emotional collapse. I had never cheered for Norman before in my life, even twenty years earlier when he was the best golfer in the world. He was always too cool and aloof for me. But those were tears running down my face and a real sob being choked back in my throat.Fortunately, my six-year-old
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REVIEWS

Praise for Headless Horsemen

"Acerbic wit and an insider’s brazen take on the elusive horse-game."—Sam Shepard

"I laughed. I cried. I read this book a second time, and then I cried again. If you want to know how thoroughbred horse racing in the United States has destroyed itself, this is the book for you. If you want to know what is to be done, this is the book for you. I can’t recommend it highly enough."—Jane Smiley

"Jim Squires has written a sad and scathing and all-too-true story about the greed and obtuseness that are destroying the once glorious sport of thoroughbred horse racing and that are turning that most magnificent of God’s creatures -- the thoroughbred horse -- into a steroid-swollen dinosaur. The charlatans of the Kentucky breeding industry and at the New York Racing Association -- as well as their overpaid apologists -- should read every page of Squires’s indictment with heads hung in shame."—Joe McGinniss

"[A]n insider's stunning account of the corrupt practices that threaten both the horses and the game. . . . Squires' folksy style makes for an engrossing read."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"[A] hilarious and informative look at the troubled condition of horse racing."--Publishers Weekly

"Exposes a thoroughbred horse-racing industry drowning in drug abuse and rife with unscrupulous business practices. . . . A well-told cautionary tale about greed and willful inattention."--Kirkus Reviews

"Acerbic wit and an insider’s brazen take on the elusive horse-game."—Sam Shepard

"I laughed. I cried. I read this book a second time, and then I cried again. If you want to know how thoroughbred horse racing in the United States has destroyed itself, this is the book for you. If you want to know what is to be done, this is the book for you. I can’t recommend it highly enough."—Jane Smiley

"Jim Squires has written a sad and scathing and all-too-true story about the greed and obtuseness that are destroying the once glorious sport of thoroughbred horse racing and that are turning that most magnificent of God’s creatures -- the thoroughbred horse -- into a steroid-swollen dinosaur. The charlatans of the Kentucky breeding industry and at the New York Racing Association -- as well as their overpaid apologists -- should read every page of Squires’s indictment with heads hung in shame."—Joe McGinniss

"[A]n insider's stunning account of the corrupt practices that threaten both the horses and the game. . . . Squires' folksy style makes for an engrossing read."--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"[A] hilarious and informative look at the troubled condition of horse racing."--Publishers Weekly

"Exposes a thoroughbred horse-racing industry drowning in drug abuse and rife with unscrupulous business practices. . . . A well-told cautionary tale about greed and willful inattention."--Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • James D. Squires

  • Jim Squires has been breeding and raising horses in Kentucky since 1990, following a career in journalism that culminated in a decade as editor of the Chicago Tribune. He is the author of three previous books, including Horse of a Different Color, his account of his wild ride as the breeder of Monarchos, the winner of the 2001 Kentucky Derby. Squires lives with his wife at Two Bucks Farm in Versailles, Kentucky.

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Available Formats and Book Details

Headless Horsemen

A Tale of Chemical Colts, Subprime Sales Agents, and the Last Kentucky Derby on Steroids

James D. Squires

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Times Books

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