Patrick Smithwick has done it again. His new book Flying Change is every bit the sleek, well-bred and fast Thoroughbred as its predecessor, Racing My Father.
In Flying Change, Smithwick is no longer racing his father. He is racing himself – while continuing with his duties as a father, a husband, a friend, a teacher and a writer.
This memoir of dueling ambitions is the tale of a man who decides in mid-life to call off all restraints, silence all naysayers, put his mind and body and courage to the test, and do what in his case—he has been away from the world of racing for twenty-five years—is the impossible: within a nine-month period get a horse to ride in the most difficult steeplechase race in the world, and then, ride that horse as if his life depends on it, which, literally, it does.
Flying Change is an inspiration for anyone who thought he or she could never compete again. If you’d like to know what it’s like to be a member of the elite racing set, if you’d like to experience firsthand a foxhunt at its most exciting moments, if you’d like to vicariously ride in the Maryland Hunt Cup, then this is your book.
The demands in time and energy required by Smithwick’s return to racing pull him away from his family and his ambition to write, creating major conflicts. Yet, the fast-paced narrative shows Smithwick striving to carry on traditions from his upbringing and apply them to the raising of his own three children. These sections are positive, upbeat, father-affirming.
Fatherhood—the tensions, the responsibilities, the possibilities—is a topic sorely missing in the American canon. When tackled in American literature, books dealing with fatherhood are most often ones written by a son or daughter describing his or her mistreatment by father who is often either abusive, violent, alcoholic, inattentive, or worse. Smithwick fights against that formula in Racing My Father, a memoir of growing up as the son of A. P. “Paddy” Smithwick, the legendary steeplechase jockey.
In Flying Change, Smithwick goes against the grain again. He writes, as a father of three children, about his relationships with them. He addresses the question of what it means to be a father in 21 Century America. Tragedy on the racetrack in the form of death, paralysis, and suicide lurks in the background. This realistic recreation of the world of Thoroughbred racing gives the book a seriousness, and it also creates suspense.
Flying Change is a must-read for the general audience as well as lovers of the horse and of horse racing. This is not only a racing memoir that catapults the reader through time and space at a breathtaking pace, it is a literary memoir that examines the big questions of how to live one’s life.
$10,000 AWARD - Patrick Smithwick wins
Seventh Annual Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award
LEXINGTON, KY—Writer, teacher, photographer and lifelong horseman Patrick Smithwick has been awarded the seventh annual Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award, for his 2012 autobiographical work Flying Change: A Year of Racing and Family and Steeplechasing. The work is a follow-up to the author’s 2006 volume Racing My Father: Growing Up with a Riding Legend, itself a finalist for the inaugural Book Award in 2006. A $10,000 winner’s check and a custom-designed Irish crystal trophy were presented to Smithwick on April 10 during an evening reception at Castleton Lyons farm in Lexington, Kentucky.
In Flying Change, the author—a son and nephew of Racing Hall of Fame horsemen and a rider possessed of his own bonafide credentials—relates the story of his return to steeplechase competition in his late 40s, a quarter-century removed from his previous racing career. With humor, elegance, and charming introspection he recalls the difficult road back from complacent middle-age to athletic fitness … the doubts, the joys, and setbacks along the way in his quest to compete and to defy the passage of time.” Smithwick’s beautifully written book impressed all three judges, who remarked on the loving detail included therein, and the honesty—sometimes brutal—with which the story was told.
Submissions for the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award came from all over the world, included among them histories, biographies, fiction, and a volume on equine law. In addition to the winner, finalists for 2012 were: Kentucky Derby Dreams: The Making of Thoroughbred Champions, by Susan Nusser; and The Garrett Gomez Story: A Jockey’s Journey Through Addiction and Salvation, by Rudolph Valier Alvarado, with Garrett Gomez.
Dr. Ryan, a successful businessman who founded Europe’s Ryanair airline in 1985, loved horse racing and a good story. In 2006 he tipped his hat to both by launching the Castleton Lyons Book Award, which with $10,000 in prize money quickly drew entries from some of the world’s foremost sporting authors. Although Dr. Ryan passed away the following year, the contest now named for him has since been carried on by his son Shane, president of Castleton Lyons.
Judges for the competition were Kay Coyte, managing editor of the Washington Post-Bloomberg News Service; HRTV broadcaster and producer Caton Bredar; and attorney and author Milton C. Toby, winner of the 2011 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award for Dancer’s Image: The Forgotten Story.
About Castleton Lyons Castleton Lyons is full-service Thoroughbred facility located on historic property near Lexington, Kentucky, in the heart of Blue Grass country. This limestone rich acreage, once owned by 18th century statesman John Breckinridge and later by Victorian Era Wall Street financier James R. Keene, has produced some of America’s most notable racehorses—from long-ago Racing Hall of Fame champions Domino, Commando, and Colin, to triple Eclipse Award-winning Ryan-family homebred and current Castleton Lyons stallion Gio Ponti.
Previous winners of the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award:
2011—Milt Toby, Dancer’s Image: The Forgotten Story of the 1968 Kentucky Derby
2010—Jaimy Gordon, Lord of Misrule
2009—James E. “Ted” Bassett and 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
2006—Joe Drape, Black Maestro
Flying Change will reward anyone who has feelings about family, about being young, about growing old. It will move you if you know how it feels to ride a racehorse or only wish you did. A frank, funny, tender love song to knowledge and connections that never should be lost, even as generations move along.
-Dorothy Ours, author, Man o’ War: A Legend Like Lightning
The lyrical beauty as Smithwick describes the horses and the heartfelt love as he describes his kids is the surf-and-turf of a memoir that one does not want to put down. As much as I was moved by Racing My Father, Flying Change is vastly superior – like an athlete being in the zone the whole time. Like all great memoir writers, Smithwick puts the reader into his world with words. I swear I can smell the stalls, see the dust when the horses are currycombed and feel the visceral pain when the writer is torn by too many competing constituencies…There is still so much Smithwick has left out. I can’t wait for the next instalment. Smithwick obviously pulls many punches, and in some chapter his tongue must’ve bled from being bitten, but he still lands many well-deserved jabs and at least a few uppercuts. Never stop punching Patrick, son of Paddy! Damn, when I finished I felt like a good friend had left town and I want to know the rest of the story…. It all rings so true. What a gift Smithwick has given us…
-Carl Gold, lawyer, bibliophile, triathlete, Baltimore, Maryland
Flying Change is poignant, uplifting, and written with the same informed sensitivity Smnithwick demonstrated in Racing My Father. The book will resonate not only with those who care about horses, steeplechasing, and the Maryland Hunt Cup, but also to anyone puzzling over the complexities of family, marriage, and the merciless passing of time.
– Peter Jay, Saigon Bureau Chief of the Washington Post during the Vietnam War, retired columnist for the Baltimore Sun
Patrick is a splendid writer, with a photographic memory (often belonging to those who excel at something). Therefore, he nails the grit and glory of jumping and racing horses, and the toll it often takes on the men, women—families—that pursue it.
- Cot Campbell, founder of Dogwood Stables, author of the books: Memoirs of a Longshot, Lightning in a Jar, and Rascals and Racehorses.
Flying Change is very exciting reading.
Most interesting was the author’s vivid descriptions of the many emotional decisions he faces. Lots of, “Should I or shouldn’t I go do this?” One more time, “follow your passion” wins out in the final decision. I thoroughly enjoyed Flying Change and you will too.
- J.B. Secor, Maryland trainer, raconteur and retired steeplechase jockey
Patrick Smithwick writes with intensity and sparkle about horses, about racing, and about his personal experience and that of his family and friends. Beyond that, however, he writes for and about anyone who has ever struggled with a desire to achieve something immensely important to just him or herself, but in opposition to those concepts we adults are taught about responsibility, taking care of others first, making the good and safe decisions, and graciously accepting the passing of youth. Smithwick draws you into his story and keeps you there with vivid description and human insight that you won't soon forget.
- Margaret Worrall, noted equestrian writer, author of 100 Runnings of the Maryland Hunt Cup and The My Lady’s Manor Races, 1909 - 2009