The opening line T.D. Thornton sets the tone in a way that would even capture the attention of Edgar Allan Poe, "SUFFOLK DOWNS was built on a dump." And, unfortunately, the track never escapes its original setting or its intention.

"We have the ocean in the winter on one side of us and the huge oil tank farms on Route 1A on the other. We're not Del Mar or Saratoga where people come for a picnic. "

Thornton's work claims to provide a glimpse into "a season at a hard-luck  horse track." However, Thornton provides much more than one season.  While the backdrop is one season at SUFFOLK DOWNS in Boston, Thornton provides a history of horse racing at Suffolk Downs from its heyday and big race days to the cold weekday races where jockeys, owners, trainers, and gamblers try to grind out a living. He is able to provide a perspective of horse racing that most people do not see or even are aware of its existence because he has worked mucking stable for his father who is a Florida trainer and has worked in the Press Room as the PR Director for Suffolk Downs.

His daily interactions with jockeys. trainers, owners, and gamblers helps him bring the reader into the hard luck sport of horse racing and one of its former tracks, SUFFOLK DOWNS.

"ON A BRIGHT MIDWINTER SUNDAY I am cruising through Legends, the stale, dank, paradoxically named sports bar on the second floor of Suffolk Downs.  Phlegmy coughs and foul language rule here, and the atmosphere resembles a freaky circus sideshow."

Not By A Long Shot is one of the few books that really seems to understand the mind of the true horseplayer or race track degenerate, "a deferential badge of respect" and a "term of endearment":

Degenerates stay up way too late at night poring over dog-eared Daily Racing Forms; can recite long-forgotten obscure data about long-forgotten horses and defunct tracks that even hardcore fans could careless about; mark the passage of time singularly by landmark racing events; and refuse to attend Saturday weddings and family functions that coincide with the sport's important dates like the Triple Crown series in the spring or the autumn's Breeder's cup Championships.

The three stories that ride in the background of Thornton's book our saving the race track through the MassCap, the race and the day, the story of the jockeys and trainers especially Rudy Baez and Michael Catalano, and the running prowess of a crooked legged horse, named Blackwater.

Along the way Thornton shares funny, sad, and compelling anecdotes about the people who bet, ride, train, and own horses so well that they begin to seem as if they exist in your world.  Yet, Thornton never lets the excitement of the winning story remove you from the bleak weather and run-down track that serves as the setting for the story.

Eventually, like everything in the great sport of horse racing, it all comes down to legislative support.   But the legislators do not care about horse racing - "The MASSACHUSETTES STATE HOUSE is seven miles away, but worlds removed from SUFFOLK DOWNS." Because, unfortunately, legislators worry about votes, appearances, and their own self-interest, Suffolk Downs, one of the last race tracks in a major city, suffers its demise not through their own mismanagement but through lack of support from their government officials as well as a dwindling interest in day-to-day racing.

Yet, Thornton some how manages to balance the grit and grime of the racetrack with his love of horse racing in a way that helps his words find the positive or at least highlight the aspects only unique to the horse racing industry. by the end, Suffolk Downs fate has been sealed, but the jockeys, trainers, owners, and gamblers will move to another location and continue to reminisce about their former home away from home.

I highly recommend this book to all horseplayers who recognized themselves in Thornton's description of the degenerate horseplayer

Purchase your own copy HERE   or even better try to order from your local bookstore not called Barnes and Noble --support your local booksellers!