When the topic of horse racing comes up for discussion, the proverbial introspection of the standard, glitz, glamour, pageantry, and the seemingly innate lifestyles of the rich and famous of the sport take center stage. For we natives of the Bluegrass State, being branded as the Thoroughbred Capital of the World swells our spirits and facilitates a belief horse racing is OUR language, and no one speaks the language quite like Kentuckians.
However, the fact is, thoroughbred racing is a massively global affair that spans across many jurisdictions all the way from the Gold Coast of Australia, to the beaches of Del Mar California just north of San Diego and everywhere in-between. Trust me, I’ve been to a good number of them. The gamut of characters participating is also not without variety as well. People of all ethnic backgrounds and socioeconomic classes from all over the world from Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai, all the way to the small Irish farmer with one horse compete at the highest level, if you have a good horse of course.
Milton C. Toby’s true mystery novel, Taking Shergar: Thoroughbred Racing’s Most Famous Cold Case, has everything to offer to every level of reader and horse fancier. Loaded with history, suspense, grand theft, mystery, conspiracy, murder, and twisting side stories bound to captivate even the shortest of attention spans. The author takes you to 1980’s Ireland where the thoroughbred industry was experiencing heights never imagined while also coinciding with the most tumultuous and dangerous political period in Ireland’s history known as “The Troubles” of Northern Ireland.
Shergar himself had become the apple of many racing fans’ eyes worldwide. He was owned and bred by prolific global racing enthusiast, His Royal Highness the Aga Khan IV, the Imam of Nizari Ismailism, a denomination of Islam whom your reviewer has met personally. Shergar earned himself the title as one of the greatest racehorses to ever live by winning both the Epsom and Irish Derbies along with the King George VI stakes and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes all in his three year old campaign under the masterful eye of trainer Sir Michael Stoute in emphatic fashion (a feat not achieved by many).
Interestingly, it wasn’t Shergar’s racing prowess that would lead to him being stolen from his stable on a cold winter night at Ballymany Stud. It was Shergar’s lucrative breeding rights and royal pedigree that would find this racing hero’s life dangling in the balance.
With his breeding rights syndicated for $10 million after his illustrious racing career, Toby’s diligent hands-on research and character interviews takes the reader through an intriguing collection of conspiracies as to the abduction of this mighty racehorse all the way through actual real-life accounts regarding the very heinous act itself.
Through layers of industrious analysis, Toby also offers readers his own conviction as to the disappearance of Shergar and the impact a systematic abduction of such an equine asset could have meant for the IRA (Irish Republican Army). Toby parlays this terroristic cell’s appetite for violence in addition to their anemic bankroll into a sound alibi as the mystery’s prime suspect.
Taking Shergar paints a very true, yet murky and dark picture of where sometimes-spectacular pageantry crosses paths with political putridness, a plot line that seemingly repeats itself over and over in our world’s history. However, the injection of a unique spectrum of characters enveloped in a plot of seismic yet fascinating proportion will be sure to hold every reader tightly by the reins!