Writer, teacher, and lifelong steeplechase horseman Patrick Smithwick has been awarded the seventh annual Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award for his 2012 autobiographical work Flying Change: A Year of Racing and Family and Steeplechasing. The work is a follow-up to the author’s 2006 volume Racing My Father: Growing Up with a Riding Legend, itself a finalist for the inaugural Book Award in 2006.
A $10,000 winner’s check and a custom-designed Irish crystal trophy were presented to Smithwick on April 10 during an evening reception at Castleton Lyons farm in Lexington.
In Flying Change, the author—son of Racing Hall of Fame jockey A. P. Smithwick and the nephew of Hall of Fame horseman D. Michael “Mikey” Smithwick—related the story of his return to steeplechase competition in his late 40s, a quarter-century removed from his previous riding career. With humor, elegance, and charming introspection he recalls the difficult road back from complacent middle-age to athletic fitness: the doubts, the joys, and setbacks along the way in his quest to compete and to defy the passage of time.”
Smithwick’s beautifully written book impressed all three judges, who remarked on its loving detail and the honesty with which the story was told.
Submissions for the Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award came from all over the world, included among them histories, biographies, fiction, and a volume on equine law. In addition to the winner, finalists for 2012 were: Kentucky Derby Dreams: The Making of Thoroughbred Champions, by Susan Nusser; and The Garrett Gomez Story: A Jockey’s Journey Through Addiction and Salvation, by Dr. Rudy Alvarado, with Garrett Gomez.
Dr. Ryan, a successful businessman who founded Europe’s Ryanair airline in 1985, loved horse racing and a good story. In 2006 he tipped his hat to both by launching the Castleton Lyons Book Award, which with $10,000 in prize money quickly drew entries from some of the world’s foremost sporting authors.
Although Dr. Ryan passed away the following year, the contest now named for him has since been carried on by his son Shane, president of Castleton Lyons.
Judges for the competition were Kay Coyte, managing editor of the Washington Post–Bloomberg News Service; HRTV broadcaster and producer Caton Bredar; and attorney and author Milton C. Toby, winner of the 2011 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award for Dancer’s Image: The Forgotten Story.