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Review: Race Day - A Spot on the Rail

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating


Race Day

Race Day by Max Watman

Ivan R. Dee, Publisher

The Bottom Line

Thoroughbred racing in America has a very rich and colorful history. New York turfwriter Max Watman takes a unique approach in presenting racing history, choosing his ten favorite racetracks and describing one race run at each of those tracks. He writes, "at the racetrack, history is made two minutes at a time." Some of the most memorable two minutes in racing history are documented here. This is an excellent tribute to racing, one that can be enjoyed by any fan of the sport.
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  • Exciting stories about America's greatest races and greatest racetracks
  • Watman does not play favorites - the 10 tracks and races are unranked
  • Convenient way to read about the best owners, trainers, jockeys, and horses in history


  • Chapter on Hialeah, Pimlico, and Gulfstream demonstrate racing's downward slide


  • Union Race Course: Out On Long Island, the Beginning
  • Saratoga Race Course: That's Horse Racing
  • Churchill Downs: Death in Memphis and a Fight on the Stretch
  • Keeneland Race Course: Racing As It Should Be
  • Arlington Park: A Cool Million
  • Santa Anita Park: Pack Up Your Bit And Git
  • Aqueduct Racetrack: The Race of the Century
  • Del Mar Thoroughbred Club: A Good Cigar, Where The Turf Meets The Surf
  • Hollywood Park: Racing's Greatest Day, New And Improved
  • Belmont Park: It's Just One Furlong Away...

Guide Review - Review: Race Day - A Spot on the Rail

In his book, Race Day: A Spot on the Rail, Watman literally brings you to to the rail for ten of racing's most memorable contests. He first discusses the track itself: who built it, who have owned it, what makes the track unique. In some cases it is the building's architecture, while in others it is the atmosphere and the natural scenery. Then he moves into the sporting side, listing the famous horses, jockeys, trainers, and owners who have graced the facility in question. Finally, putting the package together, he puts the best horses of their generation on the track in one of the greatest matchups in history. The races range from 1823 to 2004, giving the reader a look into various eras of the sport's development and reading about many different horses and their connections.

Watman's writing style is ideal for this work, evoking excitement in the reader and making one wish he or she could have attended the race in person. Racing fans can debate forever Watman's selections for each track, he having to pick the one race out of thousands run there as the one that has the most significance in history. More importantly, the ten races and tracks are not ranked. In the last chapter, he talks about the downside, three tracks which were once greats but have fallen on hard times. Hialeah is where his grandfather introduced him to racing, but sadly the place is all but condemned to the wrecking ball. He is warning the racing fan not to let the ten other tracks suffer the same fate.

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