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Broken: The Suspicious Death of Alydar and the End of Horse Racing’s Golden Age

Book Reviews
Broken: The Suspicious Death of Alydar and the End of Horse Racing’s Golden Age

Author Fred M. Kray delves into the suspicious death of Alydar — a beloved thoroughbred race horse. As a former civil trial attorney and a current animal law expert, Kray brings a detailed investigative and lawyerly approach to the now decades old tragic demise of Alydar — a controversy that has never been completely resolved.

In Broken, the dark side of horse racing shows itself — driven in large part by the outsized money at stake. At the time of Alydar’s death in 1990, the horse was the top breeding thoroughbred in the country and insured for over $35 million. The financial fortunes and careers of numerous people were inextricably linked to this one horse and created a complex web of differing motivations. These people ran the gamut from bankers with no experience with horses to grooms who have spent virtually their entire lives with horses. They included true animal lovers and outright financial fraudsters. The book skillfully explores the wide array of persons and interests involved in the diverse yet tightknit world of thoroughbred horse racing.

A recurring question is how do you protect, manage, and properly maximize a living breathing $35 million asset? Broken examines the dubious behind-the-scenes workings of the horseracing industry and exposes the numerous human failures that lead to Alydar’s death. It, however, does so while also weaving into the narrative an undeniable admiration for the courageous Alydar himself. Kray’s love of horses, and Alydar in particular, shines through the telling of the story, even though his disappointment in many of those who were responsible for Alydar’s care and well-being is palpable.

It is this dichotomy or tension between two human characteristics — avarice and love of animals — that drives Broken as a story. It is further complicated by the fact that people can have both characteristics at the same time or over time find themselves trapped between the two by previous life choices. Although reasonably sympathetic to human shortcomings, Kray stands solidly as a defender of Alydar above all else.

Broken brings out and revels in the nostalgia of horse racing’s glorious past. It is part race horse history, detailed fraud investigation, and advocate for animals all wrapped up into a who-done-it mystery. Alydar is the heroic, big-hearted champion who ends up an undeserving victim because of those who fall short of the aspirations of the sport. A sport that although steeped in the glory of exceptional thoroughbred athletes such as Alydar often gets mired down by the human flaws of those owning and managing these magnificent animals.

Hank Jackson is a member of The Florida Bar.