Weekend Reads: “Out of the Clouds”
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Those who’ve read my reviews over the years know that I am a horse-lover, and that I have a particular fondness for underdog stories.
The tale of Stymie, and his trainer Hirsch Jacobs, combines both. Jacobs, who started his career buying inexpensive “claimers” at the track, found an unlikely champion in Stymie, and grandson of the great Man O’War. The horse was tall and handsome, but he liked to lag at the back of the pack, Stymie’s bloodline appealed to Jacobs, who studied pedigrees in horses the same way he had once studied them in his racing pigeons. So, despite the horse’s poor record, he added him to the stable of claimers that he ran (in Jacobs’ own words) like a fleet of taxicabs.
Under Jacobs’ training, and with the right jockeys on-board, Stymie proved himself a winner repeatedly … with a preference for lagging at the start and then putting on the speed toward the end, often smoking the competition by several lengths.
This is an entertaining and lively book, well-sourced (there are lengthy biographical notes), and well-written. We get to see Stymie through the eyes of sportswriter Damon Runyon and many others. I enjoyed the book a great deal.