“Patrick Smithwick’s bittersweet memoir wonderfully captures a racetrack culture that he was born to and loved. But he also shows, with such wrenching emotion, how he struggled, in the parlance of his sport, to change leads in his own life. The portrait he draws of his father, Paddy — a man both lovely and tough — is absolutely endearing. We can see it wasn’t easy for the author to be Little Paddy. But it was glorious, too.”
- Frank Deford, author, commentator, and sportswriter
POIGNANT FATHER-SON PORTRAIT
Patrick Smithwick brings steeplechasing to life with this poignant memoir. His journey delivers every bump, bruise, and cheer that goes along with a racing family. You’ll never see your father the same way. Or your son.”
– Sean Clancy, author of Barbaro; co-publisher of The Steeplechase Times
A STORY THAT WILL STAY WITH YOU
Full of heart, humor, and hazards of this risky thing called life. This is a book that has soul!
- Dorothy Ours, author of Man o’War
LIFE ON THE EDGE; FAST AND FULL
You don’t have to be a horse person to enjoy this book for it is basically a very human story about – as the subtitle tells us – growing up in the shadow of a famous father and what happens when that father is no longer around to dote on. What the title doesn’t tell you is that the father dotes on his son and sees in him a replica of himself and the expectation that the son must step in for his father. Whether intentional or note, the title, “Racing My Father” is appropriately ambiguous. Racing against father, racing to keep up with father, racing away from father – it could mean any of those because that’s what the story is all about…
– David Yeats-Thomas, editor, Mid-Atlantic Horse
WRITER LETS US FEEL LOVE BETWEEN FATHER AND SON
What makes a story interesting? Depth, heart, character and truth are all the ingredients within Patrick Smithwick’s memoir, “Racing My Father.” This reader was captivated by the sounds and textures chosen by the writer to describe the world of steeplechase and the horse racing industry as told by the perspective of a child who was raised within this culture. Inspired by and in awe of his father, steeplechase great Paddy Smithwick, young Paddy, the author, is a formidable student and merciful companion to his father’s lively hood who struggles with his own life’s wishes and goals and truly wins all of our hearts in the end.
True depth and dedication describe the sometimes cruel and bitterly physical world of training and racing horses and the writer takes us to where we feel the cold, hunger, heat and the losses. We feel the dirt on the tracks and see the beautiful snow covered hills of Monkton but, mostly the writer lets us feel the love between father and son, and what it’s like to have a father who is a legend and knowing how special a place that really is. As a bonus, the double message in the story is about how this young man finds his own way in the world and chooses to become a writer with the very vigor and determination his father had all his life. This book is Patrick Smithwick’s finish line.
- Julie P. Wittelsberger, book reviewer, Allegro Communications
WHITE-GOWNED HOSTESS JUMPING OVER DINNER TABLES
"Along with celebrities – Winston Churchhill, Jackie Kennedy and Jack Dempsey make cameo appearances – Smithwick loves the entire social life among horseman and horsewomen. The parties his parents attended were fun and included the occasional white-gowned hostess jumping her horse over two dinner tables in the backyard, crowded with champagne-drinking guests. With moments like these, why would anyone want to leave hunt country and stand on line at some snooty club like Studie 54?"
- John Rowen, reviewer, The Sunday Gazette
TERRIFYING IN SHEER RAW ENERGY
"Yesterday I finished reading i>Racing My Father.. Life lived at such breakneck speed is terrifying in the sheer raw energy and tough stamina demanded race after race, "schooling after schooling", getting a leg up on horse after horse. The amazing thing is that Patrick is able to give us a ride that is remembered in all distinctive and thrilling detail page after page. No mount, no race is like any other. We see why and how one must become addicted to the life, to the racing challenge, to the wonder of the horse. And the mystery of human character and human life."
- Jo Trueschler, professor of English literature, Notre Dame College
A CLASSIC OF RACING LITERATURE
The book is filled with salty language, colorful anecdotes, and the real challenges and dilemmas of working horseman and women. It is a candid, poignant, often hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking meditation on life, love, and loss on and off the rack.
The most compelling character in the book is Emmett Grayson, an African-American horseman of the old school. After Big Paddy’s accident, Emmett comes to visit him at New York Hospital and tells him, “Boss, as soon as you get out of here, and start back training, you’ll have the best foreman on the track.”
Many people promised many things to Pop when he was in the hospital,” Patrick writes of his father, who was famous for being the softest touch on the backstretch. “Emmett delivered.”
Many people start out to write a great book as well but never quite get it done. In Racing My Father,, Patrick Smithwick, now 55 and still training and riding the occasional jumper, has put generations of his family’s hard-won wisdom about horses and racing onto 374 beautifully written pages. It is the book he has been preparing for and practicing to write for over thirty years, and it is destined to become an immediate classic of racing literature. Like Emmett Grayson, Patrick, too, has delivered.
- Audax, racing correspondent/book reviewer, New York’s Quest
EXHILIRATING, SCARY, DRAMATIC AND EUPHORIC
I have never ridden a horse or seen a steeplechase race. But, I thoroughly enjoyed Patrick Smithwick's Racing My Father. It is several poignant stories well told. It is about a boy coming of age, a father-son relationship, the world of steeplechase racing and character as well as characters.
The book is written with a subtle beauty. Smithwick shares his memories with readers in a vivid, vibrant and engaging style. A couple times early in the book I had to stop and check to make sure I was reading about something that happened more than 40 years ago. It seemed as if it was yesterday. I assume Smithwick relied on journals and some of his earlier creative writings. And, of course, he's a masterful writer.
I felt like I was right in the saddle with Smithwick. It was exhilarating, scary, dramatic and euphoric. He, however, writes as skillfully about his relationships, particularly with his famous father Paddy, and the other parts of his life as he does the races. Racing My Father is an impressive winner.
- Barry Sparks, freelance writer, Amazon Review
WRITING STYLE HAS A POETIC FREEDOM
"Racing My Father" by Patrick Smithwick is a book I loved. His writing style has what I experience as a kind of poetic freedom where he leaps forward by a slight change in subject in mid paragraph, a style I felt excited by. Equally as important I love the depth and breath of the content that so vividly brings out the character of the individuals and the unique culture of the steeplechase community. Most moving is the hero worship of a child being carried in the wake of a living legend, a child lost in the limelight always wanting more love and less light. This book speaks to the struggle of so many young boys and girls whose parent is made a legend whether in a large arena or a small village. It is so hard to feel OK when the bar is set at a mythological level. Frequently this book moved me to tears.
My brother died at a young age, and I'm sending a copy of this beautiful book to each of his two sons.
– Thomas Twomey, Amazon Review
AUTHOR HAS A WONDERFUL VOICE
I purchased this book because I have an interest in horse racing. I did not expect much other than the usual memoir.
NO! The book author has a wonderful voice. A wonderful, fascinating book.
– Ewing S. Walker, Amazon Review
GREAT BOOK FOR ALL
Patrick Smithwick, a horseman and journalist, writes with real feeling about memories of growing up with his late father, Hall of Fame steeplechase jockey A. Patrick “Paddy” Smithwick. Believe me, this is great reading, whether or not you’re into steeplechase racing.”
- Peter Winants, author of Steeplechasing: The Complete History of the Sport in North America
BOOK IS A JEWEL
The son young Paddy Smithwick, might be almost as good a writer as his father was as a rider. I can guarantee that you can't finish the book without getting teary-eyed or at least emotionally strung out. It's a shame that everyone didn't have the book by Patrick Smithwick to read on Father's Day.. There are tons of stories about the youngster struggling through the tough academic regimen of the Gilman School in Baltimore, only to find delight at Saratoga, Belmont Park and Aqueduct. He was too young to have a driver's license, but old enough to get on horses in the morning, meet an older woman or two and have an imported beer at Esposito's, where his father and virtually the entire bunch of jocks, grooms and helpers gathered after training hours. After getting a degree from Johns Hopkins, trying school teaching and a solid stint in the newspaper business, the author seems to have settled on things he knows about best. This book is a jewel.
– Dale Austin, racing correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, the Annapolis Capital
FAULKNERIAN NARRATIVE IS A MASTERPIECE
Suppose you are a young boy in ancient Rome. Suppose your father is a gladiator, the preeminent gladiator of his time, known and adulated everywhere you and he go. His steely nerve, his unwavering sublimation of all creature comforts to the task of winning, his stoic self discipline, the sublime artistry with which he practices his craft – all these things distinguish him from his fellow gladiators, render him much larger than life in your eyes, and the eyes of the whole world.
In his relationship to you, it comes naturally to him to treat you as his equal. You are his friend, his partner, even though you are only 12, 14, 16 years old. One day you will inherit his heroic mantle. He is gently preparing you.You show much promise. Others look on, understanding this will happen. It is spoken of openly.
But you see and nurse him through the terrible injuries which are part and parcel of the gladiator's life. You see the strains the long separations, which being a gladiator necessitates, put on family life. You see his health waning from it all. Because you are a thoughtful person, you see that, however glorious a life his may be, it is a life sacrificed – sacrificed to something you are not sure you understand. And, inside, you are torn and tormented.
Patrick Smithwick is the only son of legendary steeplechase jockey Paddy Smithwick, who died in 1973 – at age 46. RACING MY FATHER is, on its broadest level, a story of the author’s coming to grips with and resolving such torments. But on another level it is an engrossing portrayal of the life of steeplechase jockeys and the world they inhabit, a world aptly described by a critic on the book’s dust jacket as Faulknerian. It can be read with pleasure on either level. Taken together, it is a masterpiece.
- Turney McKnight, Columnist
MAGICAL RIDE FROM START TO FINISH
"From start to finish, the reader takes a magical ride through steeplechase history, meeting the horses and rugged individuals of an unforgettable era. Young Patrick tells his stories with charming innocence: he niether pulls his punches nor reduces to melodrama the realities of the racing life. His writing style can best be described as deceptively simple, because of the ease with which he conjures verbal images for the reader. Granted, he has a treasure trove of experiences that ignites his imagination….
The pages burst with glory, triumph, heartache, grief, and moments of sheer joy as they race after their heart’s desires. The amount of fascinating detail has a simple, serendipitous explanation. “I have all these little diaries,” says Patrick"
– Lauren Giannini, reviewer, In and Around Horse Country
A PENCHANT FOR ANYTHING FAST
Unsentimental and unsparring, and told in smithwick’s kindly voice, Racing My Father unfolds as the coming-of-age of a boy who grows up both too fast and too slow…. Smithwick has a penchant for anything fast-racehorses, motorcycles, small planes, and smart women-and brings the reader along for the ride.
- Jane Macauley Seegar, Hollins Magazine
COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN
Knowing some of the real-life characters peripherally, living in the area, and having been an avid Dick Francis reader, I thought I knew what to expect- a testosterone heavy, adrenaline rush, winning at all costs type of sports-hero book, set in a familiar location. I found, instead, an honest, open, gentle, yet exciting and riveting story of a boy's relationship with his famous father, and how his father's career, successes, injury, and death affected his son and the extended family. The writing was understated and unaffected, and the subject completely compelling and spellbinding. I look forward to more from Mr. Smithwick in the future- fiction or nonfiction.
- C. E. Copeland, Amazon Review
FINE ATTENTION TO DETAIL
The story’s fine attention to detail, and clear and concise writing, brings the reader so close to the action, you can almost hear Emmett Grayon “buckling a halter behind a horse’s ear,”see Elmer Delmer, the fat, jocular bookmaker, compile odds at the races on a chalkboard, and feel the warm, embracing family environment at Esposito’s Bar…. Smithwick explains the language of Thoroughbred racing to the readers in easily understandable terms, while not insulting horseman or those who are no strangers to life on the backside of the racetrack.
– Ben Baugh, reviewer, Aiken Standard
ABOUT SO MUCH MORE THAN HORSES
One of the rare books that I savored so I could read one enthralling chapter a night before bed. In anecdote after incident Paddy Smithwick emerges as such an extraordinary person that one is left convinced that what made him a sporting legend with the unique stature he is still accorded was a character as exceptional as his riding skills. The text is carefully crafted so that almost every aspect of riding, and specifically, steeplechase riding, is touched upon, and what was interesting to this dressage-oriented reader was how many of the truths, objectives, and techniques are commonly shared by the two branches of the sport. Also thought-provoking to those familiar with the contemporary horse show world's emphasis on winning, often even over riding well and sportsmanship, was the era the author evokes when a competitive drive could still accommodate true horsemanship and sportsmanship. And in the generosity of spirit with which the author relates tales of events and people that probably, in actuality, had less flattering aspects, it is clear that the legacy of Paddy Smithwick lives on.
- Ellen D. Reeder, museum curator, Amazon Review
AUTHOR PUTS YOU IN THE ACTION
The beauty of the story is that the author puts you right in the middle of the action, in a way you would never be, unless you were lucky enough to be the son of a world class athlete (with your wits about you), watching your father at the peak of his career, training for one more prize fight, one more season of major league baseball, one more spring of riding jump races:
"As the spring lengthened, the sweat-soaked clothes would appear more often, signaling the beginning of another steeplechase season. The carefree having-my-father-at-home of the winter, the watching him slice the lamb and ladle out the potatoes at dinner, the playing checkers with him by the fire at night while Mom played the piano, the joking around and bring the miniature pony my sister Sue Sue was riding and training into the house or into the back seat of the car would be over…All of us, Mom and Pop and Sue Sue and me lying in the big bed, watching the Untouchables and 77 Sunset Strip and Route 66 together, each trying to out-guess the other about what was going on, about who-done-it, would be over. His full Irish face would begin to narrow as he stoked the fires deep inside that drove him. He'd stop eating. He'd work in layers of clothes, melting the muscle off his neck, shoulders, thighs and calves, honing the 165 pound body of a middleweight fighter down to 155, 150, 145, 140 – to his limit, 136."
"By late March my father would be off early Monday morning at eighty miles an hour for the week. And everything in our lives got hotter, sharper, and more brilliant, as Pop fought his weight, as his nerves got touchier, as we read about him on the front pages of the sports section of the New York Times and the Herald Tribune, saw his picture in the Morning Telegraph and The Chronicle of the Horse, as he drifted away from us to his other love, to his gift, race-riding."
- John Eagan, Louisville attorney, equestrian, race horse owner
HARD-CHARGING, STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART
"Racing My Father" so very elegantly captures the blood bond between the steeplechase titan and his son. Not incidentally, it's the poignant coming-of-age story of a gifted young man who struggles, often recklessly, to find his way. The story is so gripping that I blew through it as I would a thriller novel, eagerly turning page after page. Patrick Smithwick has done a wonderful job bringing to life the steeplechase world of 40 years ago. Since Patrick's uncle Mikey Smithwick died just last spring, after the book was published, it's a timely tribute to him as well. There were so many delightful sub-stories. For instance, I laughed aloud at the description of riding Limbo, the monstrous 18.1-hand Thoroughbred. I hadn't heard that name in decades. My only regret is that my late dad, who chronicled and celebrated the Maryland breeding/racing scene for 40 years, was not here to read this gem. I can hear him right now summing up Paddy Smithwick: "Helluva good guy, and dead game." No higher compliment possible.
– George R. Carter, Amazon Review