Noor: A Champion Thoroughbred’s Unlikely Journey from California by Milton C. Toby is not a book I’d normally pick up. I’ve never had much interest or exposure to horseracing, but when I heard about Noor, I felt compelled to participate in the blog tour. The idea of a forgotten champion race horse intrigued me. I was not disappointed in the least. Now, of course, I need to read Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand.
The connection between Seabiscuit and Noor, and the stark differences in their fates, is enough to make Noor: A Champion Thoroughbred’s Unlikely Journey from California a worthwhile read. Automobile tycoon Charles Howard owned both horses. While Seabiscuit became a cultural icon of the 1930s, and became Howard’s sentimental favorite, Howard purchased Noor in the late 1940s in the hopes of reliving a measure of Seabiscuit’s success. Unfortunately Howard did not live to see Noor’s greatest achievements against racing legend Citation several times throughout the 1950 racing season. After retiring at the end of the 1950 season, Noor embarked on a mixed career as a stud lasting into the early 1960s. He then spent the rest of his days pensioned at Loma Rica Ranch near Grass Valley in Northern California. The rest of the book details one woman’s determination to protect Noor’s grave.
Personally I found the second half of the book the most interesting and emotionally engaging. While the first half of the book describes Noor’s lineage, his racing career – highlighting his storied 1950 racing season competition with Citation, and brief background of the owners, trainers, jockeys, etc., the second half of the book describes Charlotte Farmer’s effort to protect Noor’s grave. Only her determination and persistence prevented the loss of Noor’s gravesite due to development. As a result, Noor now rests at Old Friends Farm, outside of Lexington, Kentucky.
As I read the book, I couldn’t help but think about the fact that horseracing is the oldest professional sport in the United States. As with any sport, there is an entire subculture to be explored. As I stated earlier, I read the book knowing next to nothing about horseracing. I’m just glad the history of horseracing in the United States is being preserved. Noor: A Champion Thoroughbred’s Unlikely Journey from California is a great read and wonderful addition to the growing list of books detailing forgotten bits of history.
You can read a recent interview with Milton C. Toby here.
- An Interview with Milt Toby, Author Of Noor (russelllindsey.wordpress.com)