For the first time in its 14-year history, the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award has gone to a multi-collaborative effort. The winner for works published in 2019 is “Better Lucky Than Good: Tall Tales and Straight Talk from the Backside of the Track,” published through the Louisville Story Program and edited by Joe Manning. The book features perspectives and pieces from a diverse cast of racetrackers based at Churchill Downs including exercise riders, grooms, assistant trainers, hotwalkers, outriders, security guards, silks makers and touts.
“‘Better Lucky Than Good’ is a true insider’s look at a historic racetrack that goes well beyond the barns to encompass stories of little-heralded employees, neighbors outside the gates and the ancillary business owners who also are so important to the sport of racing,” said Book Award judge Kay Coyte. “All the stories are recorded, guided and edited with great respect and affection by the Louisville Story Program team.”
Coyte was part of a three-judge panel along with broadcaster Caton Bredar and Kentucky-based poet Jayne Moore Waldrop.
Other finalists selected from 15 entries were: “Justify: 111 Days to Triple Crown Glory,” by Lenny Shulman (Triumph Books) and “The Triumph of Henry Cecil: The Authorised Biography,” by Tony Rushmer (Little Brown Book Group).
A $10,000 first prize was awarded along with $1,000 to each of the two finalists, with all three receiving Tipperary crystal trophies in the form of Castleton Lyons’ iconic stone tower.