The story of a man, a horse, and a foul-mouthed trainer in the (once) glamorous world of horse racing.
Kevin Chong has grand plans. He draws up a to-do list of major milestones that will give him the life he always wanted—and the life that will inspire awe and envy in his friends. Then Chong makes an unconventional decision: he buys a racehorse. He becomes part-owner. Just don’t ask him which part. Thus Chong meets Blackie, the horse that will win his heart, even if she doesn’t always win the race. He meets Rosie, the cantankerous trainer with a heart of gold. He meets assorted characters who work, live, and drink at the track. And, one by one, the items on his to-do list are replaced with horse-related ambitions.
Written with keen observational humour, the story is strewn with fascinating tidbits and infused with the excitement and faded glamour of the horseracing world. Ultimately, it is the moving tale of a young man’s discovery that a meaningful life can arise from the most unexpected of circumstances.
” . . . a consistently entertaining and informative read.” –Publishers Weekly
” . . . a quirky, fast-paced gallop through the exhilaration, heartbreak, and financial responsibility of owning even a small share in racehorse . . . we learn more about Chong himself than he may have intended. The author can be cruel to his best buddies . . . 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 lovable than Chong. And, as we eventually learn, perhaps more reliable . . . 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 . . . ” –Quill & Quire
” . . . It’s a pleasure to offer our readers a respite by way of recommending this hilarious insight into the world of Canadian horseracing . . . Kevin Chong is a brilliant humorist and his autobiographical writing is ripe with salty dialogue and elegantly crafted narrative. This was an extraordinary experience that Chong has memorialized in an easy-to-read and hard-to-put-down book . . . ” -Glenda Fordham, The Rider
“Chong is a trigger-ready wit who’s highly fluent in contemporary references.” –Georgia Straight
“Chong’s prose transports you to grandstands of the Hastings track, where his laser-scalpel eye for detail catalogues its sights and patrons (‘raceplayers’). Some of the most mesmerizing passages are descriptions of races themselves, where you find yourself cheering for Mocha Time and revelling in her victories, even in this low-stakes world.” –National Post
“Kevin Chong’s high-stakes story of winning and losing at the races offers all the drama you could hope for (plus everything you need to know about horse sex), laced with very funny autobiography. This is more than an insider’s look at the world of the racetrack. This is extraordinary writing.” -Lee Henderson
“Chong’s adventures with Blackie make for one hell of a bumpy ride. For the reader, his affecting memoir romps home into the winner’s circle.” -Bruce Ward, Ottawa Citizen
“Here we have elegant style, a brilliant ear for dialogue both on and off the track, and a sure instinct for how to narrate a horse race. The running commentary of the narrator’s unimpressed friends is one of the funniest refrains of this wise, poignant, one-of-a-kind book.” -Jaimy Gordon
“The vivid, affecting portraits of the people who live on the backstretch will remind readers of the HBO series Luck, just as the hardbitten manner in which Chong’s veteran racetrackers deal with loss will evoke Jaimy Gordon’s Lord of Misrule.” -Bill Ott, Booklist
“There are plenty of tidbits for the equine ignorant like me – why racehorses have such silly names, and a chapter on horse genital hygiene – and gripping personal narratives of those behind-the-scenes of smalltime horse racing, but the heart of the book is Chong’s personal story . . . Chong’s personality becomes a metaphor for the heart of the track.” -Mike Landry, Telegraph-Journal
“[W]e feel his joy and pain throughout. And we learn a heck of a lot about the world of racehorses.”
–Quill & Quire
“Chong has a light touch, and is consistently funny.”
-Jane Smiley, The Globe and Mail
“My Year of the Racehorse is a poignant, unsentimental, zappingly written and regularly side-splitting investigation of what it truly means to care about others, four-legged, and yes, even two.”