Mares by War Admiral out of Blue Larkspur daughters... crossed with a Domino-line sire... the nick of the century?
Bluegrass by Borden Deal is fiction, but the novel approaches breeding -- and training and racing, for that matter -- with a reality rarely seen outside of weightier works. I re-read the book over the weekend (I first found it during my early teens) and was impressed by the authenticity and detail of the narrative.
Enmeshed in a story about a woman struggling to set up a new Thoroughbred breeding operation in central Kentucky, Deal writes convincingly of the tribulations of horse care and management. This is no glossy tale of pretty horses and their carefree connections. If anything, Deal presents misfortune and tragedy in overabundance.
What makes this book a standout is the conscientious treatment of Thoroughbred bloodlines and pedigrees. Leading lady Maude Sage has definite opinions about trends in breeding and is not shy about deriding the glut of Nasrullah and Princequillo blood in American racehorses. In this mid-1970s novel, the characters discuss particulars of conformation, class, and aptitude of several Thoroughbreds that are now well-established in the fourth, fifth, and sixth generations of current runners.
The author's research included long stays at historic Elmendorf Farm in Fayette County. In addition to the giants of Thoroughbred stallions and broodmares, you'll recognize names of influential leaders in the horse world -- Tom Gentry, Hubert Finney, Maxwell Gluck, Joe Taylor, and others -- throughout the story.
The stallion that serves as the foundation sire for Maude Sage's new farm is the fictional Sir Outlaw, who appears to be modeled after the great sire Crimson Satan (pedigree). (I wrote about a male-line grandson of Crimson Satan in an earlier post about the Domino sire line.)
Sadly, the book is now out of print, but it can be located inexpensively on Amazon and eBay - or at your local used book store. For anyone interested in racehorse breeding, pedigree influences, and life on a Thoroughbred farm, Borden Deal's Bluegrass is a must-read.