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May's Book
Horse of a Different Color
by Jim Squires

From the first edition hardback (PublicAffairs Books, 2002):

When Jim Squires set up shop as a horse breeder in the bluegrass country of Kentucky, no one held out much hope for him making a living at it. As the editor of the Chicago Tribune, Squires had overseen a staff that won seven Pulitzer Prizes in eight years, but that wasn’t enough to save his job in a management shakeup. Consoled by a hefty severance payment, he decided to take up professionally what had been a passion of his for twenty years: raising horses. Squires had successfully raised championship reiners, cutters, jumpers, and other equine athletes, but now he was heading to thoroughbred country—a move that inspired much sniggering within the journalistic and horse-breeding communities.

Horse of a Different Color is Squires’ rollicking tale of how a novice in the world of Kentucky horse culture did more than merely stay in business: He brought together the stallion and mare who produced Monarchos, the steel-gray colt blessed with extraordinary speed who went on to win the most famous race of all, the 2001 Kentucky Derby. For this triumph he was hailed as a “breeding genius,” a title that seemed excessive to some of his friends. “Breeding genius, hell!” one replied. “All this means is that sunshine will even hit a horse’s ass if he stands out in it long enough.”

In recounting his improbable journey to the winner’s circle, Squires shows that while a fast horse is necessary in order to win the Derby, a sense of humor and a boundless capacity for humiliation are absolutely essential. He lays bare in all its absurdity the close-knit and secretive world of the thoroughbred community, tweaking the self-important owners at the Keeneland and Saratoga auctions and skewering the preening trainers at Churchill Downs and Gulfstream Park. It is a world where the horses are as exciting as Seabiscuit and Secretariat and the human characters as eccentric and beguiling as any found in comic literature. And no one comes in for harsher treatment than the “breeding genius” himself, whose schemes for success often turn out to be 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent consternation. But standing calmly at the center of the commotion is Monarchos, whose prodigious talents would carry the motley band of people around him to the highest level of their profession.

For 127 years the Kentucky Derby has been billed as “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” Like the race that inspired it, Jim Squires’ book is fast-paced, punctuated by elation and despair, and exhilarating from wire to wire.


Jim Squires has been breeding and raising horses in Kentucky since 1990. From 1981 to 1989 he was the editor of the Chicago Tribune, having previously been the paper’s Washington bureau chief and the editor of the Orlando Sentinel. He is the author of two previous nonfiction books, Read All About It! and The Secrets of the Hopewell Box. A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Squires lives with his wife Mary Anne at Two Bucks Farm in Versailles, Kentucky.



“Jim Squires is a wonderful horse breeder and a very wily guy. There isn’t anyone in the bluegrass who’s done quite what he has—edit a major newspaper and breed a Kentucky Derby winner. Guess which one was more exciting and fun? I loved this book and laughed all night the night I read it.”
—Jane Smiley

“A month before the Kentucky Derby I tipped my friends about Jim’s little gray colt, Monarchos. Now, I get to do it all over again about his book. This is a savvy, insider’s view of the racehorse game told by a man who actually nailed a piece of its most elusive accolade. A genuine page-turner.”
—Sam Shepard

“Wild horses couldn’t stop Jim Squires from being what, in his soul, he has been all his life, and what he was born to be: a great reporter, with a homicide detective’s eye, a lead cellist’s ear, and a poet’s complex heart. Get ready for a wonderful ride.”
—Bob Greene


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