The Great Match Race: When North Met South in America's First Sports Spectacle (Hardcover)

When North Met South in America's First Sports Spectacle

By John Eisenberg

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780618556120, 272pp.

Publication Date: May 1, 2006



History meets horse racing in this grand, galloping story about what happened when the greatest horse from the North met the greatest horse from the South.

In the early 1800s, the notion of sport was still quite new to America, unless you counted cockfighting, chasing foxes, or hunting stags. But on a bright afternoon in May 1823 a horse race held at the Union Course on Long Island changed everything. Astonishingly, sixty thousand people attended -- a number equal to roughly half the population of New York City at the time. Two horses -- the best from the North and the best from the South -- battled it out in three grueling heats, the equivalent of nine Kentucky Derbys, in only a couple of hours. And the whole thing was based on an outrageous dare.

In a fast-paced narrative -- colorful, rich, and full of record-setting performances and towering personalities -- John Eisenberg chronicles the story of the year in which two horses were seen as embodying a nation racing inevitably toward civil war. Eclipse was the majestic champion representing the North’s evolving industrial machine, and Henry was an equine arriviste embodying southern perceptions of superiority. Their thrilling match race would come to represent a watershed moment in American history, crystallizing the differences that so fundamentally divided North and South. Along the way, we come to know millionaire industrialists, broken-down jockeys, tobacco planters, politicians, and slaves -- not to mention two amazing horses.

A unique blend of horse racing, history, and good old-fashioned storytelling, The Great Match Race provides a telling glimpse of a nation dividing, some forty years before the Civil War; a fascinating look at the early heritage of the American thoroughbred; and the first example of the sports spectacle as we know it.

Praise For The Great Match Race: When North Met South in America's First Sports Spectacle

"Eisenberg tells the stories of the two great horses and their human connection with a novelist's dramatic flair..." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

"Eisenberg succeeds in creating a gripping yarn of sporting contest..." Publishers Weekly

"...surely the most entertaining book of sports history ever written...It's a grand and glorious story..." -- Frank Deford

"Now the definitive account of a stupendous event that was a preview of modern American sports..." -- Ed Hotaling, author of Wink, The Great Black Jockeys, and They're Off! Horse Racing at Saratoga

"An extraordinary account of America's first major sports spectacle..." -- Joe Hirsch, Daily Racing Form

"Eisenberg's masterfully woven as important today as it was two centuries ago." Mim Eichler-Rivas, author of Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of a Horse and a Man Who Changed the World

Eisenberg’s melding of history and sports journalism is altogether superb.
Kirkus Reviews, Starred

"Let's get right to the point: This is a lead-pipe cinch, mortal lock, lay-your money-down sure thing of a book." The Baltimore Sun

"Eisenberg expertly captures the passions in his telling of the contest. . .the pages flip by faster than jockey colors." The Chicago Tribune