On October 20, 1923, at New York's Belmont Park, Kentucky Derby champion Zev toed the starting line alongside Papyrus, winner of England's greatest horserace, the Epsom Derby. The $100,000 purse for the novel intercontinental showdown was the largest in the history of America's oldest sport. Few happenings had ever received more attention in American newspapers.
For weeks leading up to the race, reporters filled sports pages with updates, gossip, and fawning profiles of the equine contestants and the people associated with them, including Zev's owner, the maligned oil tycoon Harry F. Sinclair. Americans rallied around the oilman's colt even as Sinclair was engaged in a brazen scheme to defraud the United States of millions of barrels of publicly owned oil. As details of Sinclair's central role in one of the most infamous corruption scandals in American history continued to emerge, Zev would become an apt mascot for a nation struggling to reconcile its traditional values with the modern complexities of the Roaring Twenties.
In Racing for America, with a focus on the major players involved in the Race of the Century, James C. Nicholson exposes the central role of politics, money, and ballyhoo in the Jazz Age resurgence of the sport of kings, which only a few years earlier had nearly been driven out of existence in the United States by Progressive reformers. Though the Zev-Papyrus face-off was one of the most-hyped sporting events of the early twentieth century, Nicholson reveals why it soon faded from American popular memory when Zev's tainted legacy proved to be incompatible with tenets of national mythology that celebrate America as a place where hard work and fair play lead to prosperity.
IntroductionAmerican DreamsProgressRancocasTempestBritish InvasionAmerica FirstMagnificent Losers
"James C. Nicholson returns to the track, with his signature blend of compelling insight and elegant prose. In these pages, he vividly depicts 1923's international match race as an electrifying contest and as a window into the turbulent history of the United States after World War I." -- Katherine Mooney, author of Race Horse Men: How Slavery and Freedom Were Made at the Racetrack
"Jamie Nicholson's Racing for America is a captivating exploration of a critical moment in American racing and how a match race run nearly a century ago influences our era of horse racing. He weaves together the disparate forces and personalities that come together to bring post-war America the diversion of the Old World versus the New, and, in the process, creates a portrait of a sport overcoming its near-death experience to rival baseball for America's favorite sport. Come for the story of this legendary horse race and stay for an engrossing examination of how modern spectacles like the Breeder's Cup came to be." -- Jennifer S. Kelly, author of Sir Barton and the Making of the Triple Crown
"Jamie Nicholson once again has discerned and described the many ways the sport of Thoroughbred racing can respond to, reflect, and perhaps even advance, American attitudes and ambitions. He also has provided another highly intriguing and lively narrative which will grasp and entertain readers, whether new to the subject of racing or already familiar with the historic sport." -- Edward L. Bowen, author of 22 books on Thoroughbred racing