Enter the highly competitive world of Standardbred horse racing, in this exhilarating debut from an insider. The story, however, goes far beyond that and touches on universal themes that every reader will recognise.
You’ll be thrust into the front car on a roller coaster ride, through triumph and disaster, that begins on page one. You’ll feel every twist and turn of the story in the pit of your stomach. You’ll laugh and cry with the rough, tough guys who put on the show, rain or shine. You’ll empathise with the women who give this world a heart. You’ll meet the cheaters who use horses as pincushions, who want to win at any price. You’ll get to know the equine athletes who give their all, whatever challenges life throws at them. Last, but not least, you’ll feel the overwhelming sense of community that pervades this world, despite the sharp edges of a highly competitive sport. If that’s not enough, there’s a backstory that will keep you on the edge of your seat, which takes you on a journey from Ontario, Canada to the Rockies, the US, the Caribbean and even the UK. The icing on the cake is an ending full of surprises that will leave you feeling well satisfied.
The characters leap off the page: a brilliant harness horse driver whose drug habit risks costing him everything, his cousin, a trainer who refuses to compromise her integrity, a mysterious individual known only as the Scorpion, lurking in the shadows, pulling the strings, the Director of Racing trying desperately to clean up the industry, his mentor and best friend who has his own agenda, a low life groom who knows too much for his own good, the Canadian Mountie who inadvertently gets involved, with unforeseen consequences, a veterinarian caught between two worlds, young horses unaware of what’s in store for them and trainers whose livelihoods hang by a thread, who face a Hobbesian choice if they are to survive. These are just some of the players in a story where passions run high and where the distinction between right and wrong, good and evil, is always blurred.
Fascinating, fast paced and with shocking twists and turns until the very last, HORSE FLESH is a breakthrough debut novel set to entertain not only horse and racing enthusiasts, but fiction fans looking for a fresh next read.
I was lucky enough to get to chat with author Tina Sugarman about her unique novel, Horseflesh, and the inspiration and research behind the tale. Check it out below:
Harness racing is very popular in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but less so in Europe, how did you become involved in this specialised field?
I grew up in the south of England, spending time in Surrey, Dorset and the Isle of Wight. I was educated privately, attending an academic boarding school and going on to University, but a few years later I was living in a tack room on the racetrack with my husband being woken up by the horse in the stall next door, who was banging on the tack room wall demanding breakfast! My love affair with horses began before I can remember. There was a gypsy pony who followed me up and down the beach, an old mare named Jemma who taught me how to ride and wild gallops across the island with a group of local children, led by a farmer known simply as "Bennett".
A passion for sailing put riding on hold for a while, but I rediscovered my love of horses after I met my husband. We fled middle class life, and, on a shoe string,we owned, trained and raced a small stable of standardbreds, winding up at Assiniboia Downs,in Winnipeg, Canada,for a while, where it started snowing at the end of August!. For a while, we cut quite a splash. When we won with 6 of our 7 horses in a single week and the 7th finished second, we told each other excitedly that we would never have to work at normal jobs again. We were wrong!!
All too soon, we had to head back to the UK to look for paid employment, with our two young children in tow. Eventually, we persuaded East Sussex County Council to support our idea of after school learning workshops for children and their families, to give all pupils, no matter what their background, the chance to follow their interests in small groups, under the guidance of expert enthusiastic tutors, at bargain prices. The formula was a hit. More than a thousand people a week regularly took part and the scheme was given a full page feature in a national newspaper. Our, by now, three chidren joined in, first as participants and later as tutors. (The concept was subsequently taken up by others to a national level under the banner "Childrens University", which now operates successfully all over Great Britain.)
But the lure of standardbred racing proved too great to resist for long! We started spending our summers in Ontario, Canada, only a few kilometres from Mohawk Raceway,one of the premier harness racing tracks in North America. Our youngest daughter who shared our love of horses, took to it like a duck to water. For many years now I have helped select yearlings at the Sales for a Canadian company that owned and raced standardbred and kept a watchful eye on their horses' training, racing and development. Over time, I've had a chance to get to know many of the trainers, breeders, veterinarians, blacksmiths and grooms involved in the standardbred racing game. This book was born out of those experiences.
I now live in Poole, Dorset, close to the sea and the New Forest, with my husband and our maine coon cat. Our children live in London and Dublin, not too far away. Horses still feature in my life. I regularly drive Mango, our hackney mare. She has gone on many exciting adventures through the New Forest. I continue to take a keen interest in the world of standardbred racing.
Horse Flesh shows the darker underside of harness-racing. Is this a more realistic view of the racing world, in your opinion?
I wrote this book to lift the curtain on the good, the bad and the ugly, to highlight harness racing’s problems and to try to offer solutions, hoping against hope that HORSE FLESH could make a difference and inspire change in the right direction. Right now, Standardbred racing in North America is struggling to survive. The situation has been made worse in Ontario by the provincial government’s threat to severely cut revenues from Slot machines at the racetrack. The uncertainty has been catastrophic. At its heart, Harness racing is a craft, a rural pursuit that deserves to continue. However, here’s a list of a few things that have happened to us whilst being at the centre of the horse racing world:
- Watching a very good f friend, Keith Linton, who was a driving legend in Canada, leaping onto Dayne Cash's back (another driver) when the lines broke apart. He finished the race that way.
- A horse called Handsome Sam, an 18 hand monster, who felt so good to be out on the racetrack that he bucked high in the air, his feet whistling past the driver's head, missing it by inches. After the third time, the driver, my husband, did a backward somersault out of the sulky, leaving the horse to make a beeline for the race barn, sending everyone running for cover as this giant of a horse hurtled into the paddock, stopping on a dime right in front of me.
- Finding a rival trainer in our barn at midnight, after he had threatened to burn it down if we kept on winning so many races.
- Racing on August 31st at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, Canada, in a blinding snowstorm where neither the horses nor the drivers could see more than a few feet in front of them.
- A big mare called Casimir Only One with a prominent roman nose, who showed all of her feelings all of the time, including knocking the veterinarian's front teeth out when she was working on the mare's front leg, thinking she was fly. Two weeks later, with her problem solved, winning at 100 - 1. Watching Cassie proudly returning to the race barn, with her head held as high as the rafters was quite a thrill.
- Trying to catch two wild yearling stud colts who had lost their halters, jumped the fence and had just discovered girls! Being dragged through the mud by newly broken four year olds who had minds of their own - the first time either I or my husband had ever broken a horse.
- A stud called Morris Katz after winning big, prancing down the shedrow to the squeals of his harem of eight adoring racemares we had in our barn.
- Winning 6 races in a single week and the 7th finishing second, thinking that we'd never have to work at normal jobs again!
- Praying our trotter had finished 5th, so we could go grocery shopping without having to sell a harness. (He did!)
What inspired you to become a writer?
When my youngest daughter went back to school full time after being home schooled for a few years, I suddenly had time on my hands. Driving around the neighbourhood, stories came into my head. After I wrote a scene where a horse named Harmony Light was ‘buzzed” with an electric cattle prod in Tom “Cowby” Larson’s barn on a bitter cold night in Ontario, I knew this wasn’t just a short story. It was a book. Though I had a vague idea about the story I wanted to tell, it was the characters who sprang to life before I even thought about the intricacies of the plot. By then, the characters were firmly in charge, always authentic, never sounding a wrong note, driving the plot along.
I would like to thank Tina Sugarman for taking the time to chat to me. Check out my review of HORSEFLESH below.
Release date - 1st September 2016
Book length - 712 pages
Available on - www.amazon.com | www.amazon.co.uk
HORSE FLESH by Tina Sugarman is a fast-paced fictionalised account of the fascinating world of harness racing, that gives the reader a real insight into this unique sport. With many characters, this story shows us the racing community from every angle - from the cheaters and saboteurs who will do whatever it takes to come out on top, to the extremely talented athletes who will give it their all regardless of what is happening in their personal lives. From trainers with principles to drug issues to sinister activities going on behind the scenes, HORSE FLESH really does tell a story that will keep you interested from beginning to end. Having never read a novel revolving around the racing circuit, this type of story was new for me, but I am delighted that I happened upon it. And through all of the twists and turns of the novel, the trials, and tribulations, the author has also portrayed the wonderful community spirit that exists in this arena, the many highs as well as the lows. HORSE FLESH by Tina Sugarman is a unique novel and is well worth a read.
BOOK RATING - 📖📖📖📖 4
Tina Sugarman has been involved with Standardbred horse racing in Ontario for nearly two decades, spending summers on a horse farm a few kilometres from Mohawk Raceway, the premier harness racing track in Canada. She lives in Poole, Dorset with her husband and their maine coon cat, Juliette and enjoys driving their hackney mare, Mango, in the New Forest. She still takes a keen interest in the sport. HORSE FLESH by Tina Sugarman (published by Clink Street Publishing September 1st, 2016) is available to order from online retailers including Amazon and to order from all good bookstores.
*Book received from Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Hi fellow bookworms. My name is Linda and I'm a reviewer & blogger, wife & mother who loves all things books!
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