The Horse God Built: Secretariat, His Groom, Their Legacy.
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
Nikki Tate-Stratton writes children’s picture books and novels for
preteens. Her most recent novels are Jo’s Triumph, Raven’s Revenge,
and Tarragon Island. Her latest picture book is Grandparents’ Day.
Lawrence Scanlan returns to familiar equestrian territory with this non-fiction account of two great figures in horseracing: Secretariat and his groom, Eddie “Shorty” Sweat. Though most will have heard of the famous horse, few know much about the man who tended to Secretariat’s every need during the years when the horse smashed records and became a household name.
The horse-groom relationship is deep and profound, and Scanlan does an excellent job of exploring this powerful connection. The author draws his material from previously published books and articles and interviews he conducted with all manner of individuals involved in thoroughbred racing, including many who knew Eddie Sweat. Scanlan also recounts several pilgrimages the author made to important places in the Secretariat/Sweat story.
The book’s prologue begins at the end of an important chapter in Secretariat’s life (on November 11, 1973, the day the horse left the track to retire to a life at stud at Claiborne Farm). From there, Scanlan turns his attention to Secretariat’s foaling before weaving back and forth through time to cover a period that ends with one of Scanlan’s trips in 2005. The resulting looping, contemplative narrative fills in the personal backgrounds of horses, people, and racing traditions. The non-linear trajectory readily accommodates various sidebars, anecdotes, and digressions, each of which sheds a little more light on the world of thoroughbreds and the people who raise, train, and race them. By turn eccentric, callous, generous, and passionate, these personalities are what make the story so accessible and interesting.
Black-and-white photographs show Secretariat in fine racing form as well as sharing intimate moments with his groom. The book concludes with a list of sources, a selected bibliography, and a detailed index.
This is a fine tribute to Eddie Sweat and the invaluable contribution he made to a great horse’s career.