Lexington: The Extraordinary Life and Turbulent Times of America’s Legendary Racehorse

Ballantine. Jul. 2023. 416p. ISBN 9780593496701. $28.99. HIST
Lawyer and dressage rider Wickens delivers a book that isn’t just a story about a champion horse; it’s also a historical examination of how some wealthy Americans bred fast horses in the 1850s and built and popularized racetracks across the country. Throughout, pages are devoted to the role that free and enslaved Black men played in training or riding champions. Lexington was a thoroughbred that won $56,600 (more than $1.5 million today) in six out of seven races and set a world record—seven minutes and 19 and three-quarters seconds—that held for 20 years for a four-mile race. (The Kentucky Derby, by comparison, is only a mile and a quarter.) Being blind in one eye, with faltering sight in the other, forced Lexington’s retirement, but he became the leading sire in the U.S. for an unprecedented 16 years. Twelve out of 13 Triple Crown winners are descended from him. The author’s love of horses is crystallized in the plethora of passages about the proper care, feeding schedules, training, and rest that horses require. Her extensive, fascinating research also covers what happened after Lexington’s 1875 death.
VERDICT Readers do not have to be horse lovers to get swept into this captivating look at an unmatched horse and people of the 1850s.
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