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A Novel

From award-winning writer Alyson Hagy comes a novel set at Kentucky's Keeneland racetrack, where the horses run for glory and people stake love and money -- all to win at the sport of kings.
Hagy, a compelling storyteller who has the "same way with language as her characters have with animals" (San Jose Mercury News), introduces Kerry Connelly, a skilled exercise rider who hasn't yet learned that liking a horse doesn't make it faster but loving one means genuine risk. Kerry -- who can hardly remember a day she hasn't put sweat in the saddle -- is more or less healthy, more or less single, and technically broke. She's come back to home turf, the sweet Kentucky bluegrass of Keeneland, one step ahead of her estranged husband, Eric. A trainer fueled by drugs and money dreams, he's got control of Kerry's champion mare, Sunsquall, and has New York loan sharks after them all.
Keeneland may not be much of a haven, as Kerry's shadowy past has not been forgotten. Some people on the backside of the track are too proud to take her back without a fight -- Alice Piersall, the massive, hell-for-leather trainer of second-rate horses; Reno, a one-time child preacher who now saves his brimstone sermons for the Thoroughbreds; and Billy, a former lover known for his honesty in a roulette wheel business. Others are determined to make her fall -- bottle-blond Louisa Fett, a rider who has hated Kerry since they trained together as teens; Delvecchio, a showboat trainer who treats his barn girls like stock.
Gossip, gambling, lust, and outright robbery erode Kerry's dwindling fortunes. When Eric returns to make his play, risking Sunsquall to clear his debts, Kerry must find out if her final cards -- her body and soul -- are enough to save her in this world where little lasts for long except hope. Keeneland, as Hagy tells it, in a haunting voice "as unique and natural as folk art" (The Orlando Sentinel), energizes -- and humanizes -- the carnival chaos of racetrack life.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 272 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743242691 | 
  • April 2002
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I was on my way to the race secretary's office when I was waylaid by the sight of crotchety Reno hosing down a high-hocked chestnut mare. He shouldn't have been there. Alice Piersall's barn had always been down the hill, closer to the track kitchen. I'd been sweating blood about running into some people, the wrong people, before I got my story straight, so I hadn't bet on having my first sparring match of the morning with that sour old man. I could've turned around, eased the corner at the next shed row, and mazed my way up the hill to where the hustlers were eking out their deals. They wouldn't care why I was back from New York... see more

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