The highest honor in thoroughbred literature will be awarded next month at Castleton Lyons Farm in Lexington, KY. The Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award, which honors those who "promote the horse through literature," has honored the top books related to horse racing since 2006. The award includes generous prizes of $1,000 for finalists and $10,000 for the winner. (For comparison’s sake, the National Book Award, which honors the best in all literary categories, also offers prizes of $1,000 for finalists and $10,000 for the winners).
The semifinalists for this year’s award, which is open to books published in 2016, will be announced later this week with the three finalists announced around March 27. The award will be presented at an invitation-only event at Castleton Lyons in Lexington, KY on April 20.
The award is named after Dr. Tony Ryan, an Irish businessman who passed away in 2007 after making his fortune in aviation. Ryan built a career in aircraft leasing before establishing Ryanair, which would become one of the largest airlines in Europe. Ryanair revolutionized low-cost air travel in Europe in much the same way Southwest Airlines has done in the United States, according to representatives of Castleton Lyons Farm.
Ryan’s interest in the horse industry led to his ownership of Kilboy Estate, a stud farm in Ireland, which is now owned by his son, Shane. Ryan also owned Lyons Desmesne, a 600-acre country estate in Ireland. Both properties were active breeding operations where Ryan and his family kept broodmares and their progeny, according to Castleton Lyons.
Ryan also raced thoroughbreds in Europe and in America. Shane Ryan has also raced thoroughbreds, notably multiple Grade 1 winner Gio Ponti who earned more than $6 million and finished second in the Breeders Cup Classic. Gio Ponti, who now stands at Castleton Lyons for $7,500, has sired Defrong (winner of the 2016 Breeders Cup Sprint) and Sir Dudley Digges (winner of the $1 million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine in Canada).
Dr. Tony Ryan, a literary fan whose homes were filled with books of all types, created the book award in 2006 to bring together his love of horses and literature.
“We think there is such a natural attraction between humans and horses throughout history,” Castleton Lyons representatives said. “Many horse racing moments have been part of some of the greatest sporting history in this country, and, as with all major achievements, they attract authors that record momentous events. The horse has played an important part of our sporting history and the recording of this through writing has traditionally been very popular due to the demand and interest of the general public.”
The judges for this year’s award are Kay Coyte, Caton Bredar and John Carter. See their bios below from Castleton Lyons:
Kay Coyte, is an Eclipse and American Horse Publications award-winning photographer and former editor and publisher of The Horsemen's Journal Thoroughbred racing magazine. Coyte recently retired from the Washington Post as an editor since 1982, most recently with the Washington Post-Bloomberg News Service. Earlier in her career, Coyte covered racing for The Saratogian newspaper in Saratoga Springs, NY, and her freelance articles have appeared in several racing and sports magazines.
Caton Bredar is an award-winning broadcast journalist and a respected commentator, analyst and producer at TVG Network.
John Carter is a noted British sports writer who authored Warriors on Horseback and won last year's Ryan Book Award. Carter previously authored the books Newmarket: A Year at the Home of Racing; First Past the Post: History of Horse Racing; and Play the Masters. He co-authored The Stupid Footballer is Dead.
Winners from the first 10 years of the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award are listed below:
2015 - John Carter, Warriors on Horseback; 2014 - Andrew Plattner, Offerings from a Rust Belt Jockey; 2013 - David Owen, Foinavon: The story of the Grand National's Biggest Upset;2012 - Patrick Smithwick, Flying Change: A Year of Racing and Family and Steeplechasing; 2011 - Milton Toby, Dancer's Image: The Forgotten Story; 2010 - Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule; 2009 - James E. "Ted" Bassett & Bill Mooney, Keeneland's Ted Bassett: My Life; 2008 - Rudy Alvarado, The Untold Story of Joe Hernandez: The Voice of Santa Anita; 2007 - T.D. Thornton, Not By a Long Shot: A Season at a Hard Luck Horse Track; and 2006 - Joe Drape, Black Maestro.
Special thanks to Betsy Hager and Stuart Fitzgibbon of Castleton Lyons who provided information for this story.