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Geraldine Brooks’ ‘Horse’ champions a Black trainer and a prized colt

Geraldine Brooks’ “Horse” circles two tracks: one a riveting historical novel about a talented, enslaved Black horse trainer and his charge, the famous white-footed racehorse named Lexington, the other a contemporary story about an interracial romance between two characters who connect over their interest in the horse. The result is a book not just about a racehorse, but about race.

While not as well known today as Seabiscuit, Lexington was a champion who became “the greatest thoroughbred stud sire in racing history.” His 575 foals included many Belmont and Preakness winners, including Preakness himself.

Brooks, clearly a horse lover, explores a fascinating sidebar to history that highlights how the lucrative business of horse racing was deeply entwined with the institution of slavery in the pre-Civil War South. The skilled Black grooms, trainers, and jockeys – many of whom were enslaved – have yet to be given their due. Her sensitive, deeply researched novel by Ella is a welcome step toward correcting the historical record.

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