Writer, teacher, photographer and lifelong 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 book is a follow-up to Racing My Father: Growing Up With A Riding Legend, a former finalist for the award in 2006. Smithwick received a $10,000 check and Irish crystal trophy during an awards reception at Castleton Lyons farm in Lexington, Ky.
In Flying Change, the author relates the story of his return to steeplechase competition in his late 40s, a quarter-century removed from his previous racing career. With humor, elegance, and charming introspection he recalls the difficult road back from complacent middle age to athletic fitness and competition. All three judges remarked on the 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, including 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 Rudolph Valier Alvarado, with Garrett Gomez.
Dr. Ryan, founder of Europe’s Ryanair airline in 1985, loved horse racing and a good story. In 2006 he launched the Castleton Lyons Book Award, which quickly drew entries from some of the world’s foremost sporting authors. Since the passing of Dr. Ryan in 2007, his son Shane, president of Castleton Lyons, has continued the tradition of the award.
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.
To read the Chronicle’s review of Flying Change, see the Oct. 15, 2012, issue.