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Book Review: The Lucky Thirteen

Review of "The Lucky Thirteen: The Winners of America’s Triple Crown of Horse Racing" by Edward L. Bowen

November 13, 2019

Since 1875, the most coveted and celebrated achievement in American horse racing has been the Triple Crown. The prestigious honor is awarded to the three-year-old Thoroughbred that wins the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes in a single season. Only 13 horses have accomplished the feat. The Lucky Thirteen: The Winners of America’s Triple Crown of Horse Racing is a fascinating book about those remarkable champions written by sports journalist and author Edward Bowen. The Lucky Thirteen is a compelling journey through the rich history of one of the most formidable and exciting challenges in all of sports.

Each of the three Triple Crown races reveals stories for the ages. For example, Bowen describes Secretariat bouncing back at Churchill Downs in the 1973 Derby after the big horse’s third-place finish in the Wood Memorial a few weeks earlier; War Admiral following a dominating Derby victory with a show of courage to turn back the strong bid from Pompoon in the 1937 Preakness; and Affirmed battling Alydar down the stretch to capture the 1978 Belmont and the Triple Crown.

From the first Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton in 1919, to the 13th, Justify, nearly one hundred years later, Bowen covers the trainers, owners, and jockeys who etched their names into the annals of Thoroughbred racing, and the “lucky thirteen” horses who captured all three jewels of the Triple Crown. The Lucky Thirteen is a magnificent story that any fan or history buff would appreciate.

Reviewed by Chris Enss, COWGIRL Book Editor, and a New York Times best-selling author who writes about women of the Old West.

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