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Native Dancer, the Grey Ghost: Hero of a Golden Age Hardcover – May 2003


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books (May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446530700
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446530705
  • Product Dimensions: 23.7 x 15.9 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,373,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
He was a sprinkle of light on a dark canvas, the only grey horse in a dizzy tumble of bays, blacks, and chestnuts coming down the stretch. Read the first page
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 26 Jun 2003
Format: Hardcover
In 1953, Native Dancer, a grey, 3-year-old racehorse bred and owned by Alfred Vanderbilt, captured the hearts and imagination of America and was declared "one of the three most popular figures in the country," along with TV personalities Arthur Godfrey and Ed Sullivan. Winning an incredible twenty-one of his twenty-two races, he was only a few inches away from having a perfect record, losing that one race "by a nose." Horse of the Year in 1954, Native Dancer was an unprecedented choice to grace the cover of Time magazine in May, 1954, just before he retired from racing as a four-year-old.
Author John Eisenberg reports here on the horse, the stable, and all the individuals who were part of his illustrious career, explaining the circumstances which made Native Dancer the darling of the country. Seen by more race fans than any other racehorse in history, thanks to America’s recent discovery of the joys of television, he stood out visually from the pack and became "America’s first matinee idol." When he began racing in 1952, World War II had been over for only a few years, and the fifties were a decade in which "institutions were to be admired, not challenged." Americans "saw their country as wealthy and invincible," and Native Dancer became a symbol of this power. He was, in fact, so big and so powerful that when he ran, "you could draw a horizontal straight line from his airborne back feet to the tips of his forelegs," his stride measuring an incredible twenty-nine feet.
Having thoroughly researched every conceivable aspect of his story, Eisenberg writes with the journalistic brio of a true lover of horse-racing, and makes the horse, his stupendous bursts of speed out of the pack in the final seconds of his races, and the people surrounding him live again.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 15 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
"Racing�s original pop star, the equine Elvis Presley." 26 Jun 2003
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In 1953, Native Dancer, a grey, 3-year-old racehorse bred and owned by Alfred Vanderbilt, captured the hearts and imagination of America and was declared "one of the three most popular figures in the country," along with TV personalities Arthur Godfrey and Ed Sullivan. Winning an incredible twenty-one of his twenty-two races, he was only a few inches away from having a perfect record, losing that one race "by a nose." Horse of the Year in 1954, Native Dancer was an unprecedented choice to grace the cover of Time magazine in May, 1954, just before he retired from racing as a four-year-old.
Author John Eisenberg reports here on the horse, the stable, and all the individuals who were part of his illustrious career, explaining the circumstances which made Native Dancer the darling of the country. Seen by more race fans than any other racehorse in history, thanks to America's recent discovery of the joys of television, he stood out visually from the pack and became "America's first matinee idol." When he began racing in 1952, World War II had been over for only a few years, and the fifties were a decade in which "institutions were to be admired, not challenged." Americans "saw their country as wealthy and invincible," and Native Dancer became a symbol of this power. He was, in fact, so big and so powerful that when he ran, "you could draw a horizontal straight line from his airborne back feet to the tips of his forelegs," his stride measuring an incredible twenty-nine feet.
Having thoroughly researched every conceivable aspect of his story, Eisenberg writes with the journalistic brio of a true lover of horse-racing, and makes the horse, his stupendous bursts of speed out of the pack in the final seconds of his races, and the people surrounding him live again. Through newspaper accounts, photographs, step-by-step reconstructions of the races, interviews with the participants and their heirs, and personal stories by people who remember the horse and his quirks, he turns back the clock to a simpler era and recreates the spirit of the fifties when all the world looked bright. Though Native Dancer was never as lovable as Seabiscuit (and, in fact, once bit off the finger of someone he did not trust), he was a huge and positive presence, an immensely powerful racer who had a tremendous desire to win and the intelligence to know how hard he had to work to accomplish that win. Mary Whipple
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A Nice Telling of the Story of the Equine Hero of the 50's 21 July 2003
By K. Palmer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With the success of the book "Seabiscuit" by Laura Hillenbrand, more books are being issued of some of the great thoroughbred race horses of the 20th century. John Eisenberg, a newspaper journalist from Baltimore, has written a very good biography of Native Dancer, who was the first horse racing hero in the television age. Native Dancer was a huge gray colt who won all but one race in his career, but the race he lost was the biggest one of all, the Kentucky Derby in 1953.
Eisenberg tells the story of Native Dancer similarly to the way Hillenbrand told her story, focusing on the owner, trainer and jockey while weaving it with the personality of the horse and tying it in with the theme of the era (depression in Hillenbrand's case, the discovery of television in the Dancer's case).
The only criticisms are minor. His focus on Native Dancer's loss to Dark Star in the '53 Derby happens in the middle of the book and is so well written that the rest of the book basically pales in comparison. Whether it is fair or not, Native Dancer is famous because of his one loss, so the victories he had after that (including the final two jewels of the Triple Crown) just don't come off as very important.
But this book gave me a great appreciation of Native Dancer. I don't think we'll see a movie of his life like we will with Seabiscuit, but I do hope we'll see more horse racing books from Mr. Eisenberg in the future (he has another that is even better called "The Longest Shot" about 1992 Derby winner Lil E. Tee).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"Racing's original pop star, the equine Elvis Presley." 19 Sep 2005
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In 1953, Native Dancer, a grey, 3-year-old racehorse bred and owned by Alfred Vanderbilt, captured the hearts and imagination of America and was declared "one of the three most popular figures in the country," along with TV personalities Arthur Godfrey and Ed Sullivan. Winning an incredible twenty-one of his twenty-two races, he was only a few inches away from having a perfect record, losing that one race "by a nose." Horse of the Year in 1954, Native Dancer was an unprecedented choice to grace the cover of Time magazine in May, 1954, just before he retired from racing as a four-year-old.

Author John Eisenberg reports here on the horse, the stable, and all the individuals who were part of his illustrious career, explaining the circumstances which made Native Dancer the darling of the country. Seen by more race fans than any other racehorse in history, thanks to America's recent discovery of the joys of television, he stood out visually from the pack and became "America's first matinee idol." When he began racing in 1952, World War II had been over for only a few years, and the fifties were a decade in which "institutions were to be admired, not challenged." Americans "saw their country as wealthy and invincible," and Native Dancer became a symbol of this power. He was, in fact, so big and so powerful that when he ran, "you could draw a horizontal straight line from his airborne back feet to the tips of his forelegs," his stride measuring an incredible twenty-nine feet.

Having thoroughly researched every conceivable aspect of his story, Eisenberg writes with the journalistic brio of a true lover of horse-racing, and makes the horse, his stupendous bursts of speed out of the pack in the final seconds of his races, and the people surrounding him live again. Through newspaper accounts, photographs, step-by-step reconstructions of the races, interviews with the participants and their heirs, and personal stories by people who remember the horse and his quirks, he turns back the clock to a simpler era and recreates the spirit of the fifties when all the world looked bright. Though Native Dancer was never as lovable as Seabiscuit (and, in fact, once bit off the finger of someone he did not trust), he was a huge and positive presence, an immensely powerful racer who had a tremendous desire to win and the intelligence to know how hard he had to work to accomplish that win. Mary Whipple
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
One Of The Great Racehorses Of All Time 31 Oct 2008
By Craig Connell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Until discovering this fine book, I had forgotten just how good a horse was Native Dancer. Holy smokes! This horse has to be ranked in the top handful of racehorses of all time. Like Man `o War, he was only beaten once, and that was a fluke. The "Grey Ghost" (Native Dancer) not only won repeatedly but did so in dramatic form with one incredible come-from-behind effort after another. Reading about all his exciting races was a thrill.

I don't know if there are many books which describe the horse racing scene in the 1950s so this was very eye-opening for me. For instance, I can't believe that racing bigwigs (for lack of a better word) would downgrade and discourage the use of television as promoting their sport. Boy, they dropped the ball on that one, bigtime, especially since more people got to look at Native Dancer because of TV than any horse before. That includes the likes Man `War, Sir Barton, Seabiscuit, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Citation and the rest of history's great horses prior to 1953.

Whatever, John Eisenburg's book gives us a wonderful stories of the Vanderbilt family, who owned the bred the horse; trainer Bill Winfrey, jockey Eric Guerin and others. Like many good horse racing books, I found the chapters on the jockeys the most interesting.

I thought this book was one of the better reads I've had on this great sport. This is not an easy book to find but you can get it at a terrific price here at Amazon under the "used and new available" heading near the top of the page.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Appropriate subtitle . . . 31 July 2004
By just a reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a well-written story of a great horse, but the story is more than just the horse itelf. The author does a fine job of providing insight and understanding into the cutural forces that shaped America and American horse racing during the time of Native Dancer's reign. Throughout the book, the author provides a contextual backdrop from which the reader can view the accomplishments of this great horse. Granted, the storyline is not as fairy-tale and movie-ready as Seabiscuit, but the accomplishments of the horse make this one fine read. What hinders the author is the timing of Native Dancer's solo loss. What saves the book is how the author keeps the reader's interest for the rest of the [post-loss] narrative. I am not a student of the horses, but this book was one I had a hard time putting down.
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