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From The Desert To The Derby: Inside the Ruling Family of Dubai’s Billion-Dollar Quest to Win America’s Greatest Horse Race

Product Description
This book covers the conflict between Skeikh Mohammed Rushed al Maktoum and the old-line Kentucky racing establishment. The book also brings to life some of the world’s most exquisite Thoroughbred racing facilities in the world, and a battle that involves sports’ such fertile ground; money, power, ego, and tradition.

From The Desert To The Derby: Inside the Ruling Family of Dubai’s Billion-Dollar Quest to Win America’s Greatest Horse Race


  1. I enjoyed this book from start to finish. It was an excellent mix of horse racing, politics, and the story of how much the one Arab sheik really wants to win the Kentucky Derby. I like books that tell a story and also allow me to learn interesting things as i go and this one did that, a lot like Seabiscuit did. I definitely recommend this book to all sports fans, not just horse racing fans…
    Rating: 5 / 5

  2. Jason Levin, From the Desert to the Derby (DRF Press, 2002)

    In Steve Crist’s autobiography, he talks about DRF Press, and how he wanted to get serious about publishing books with it after he took over at the Daily Racing Form. Well, he’s certainly gotten serious; DRF Press has not only stepped up publishing books on handicapping and betting the horses (look for my sure-to-be-overenthusiastic review of Steve Klein’s The Power of Early Speed early in 2006), but also taking chances on books aimed at a more general audience– for example, From the Desert to the Derby.

    As the title implies to any horseplayer, From the Desert to the Derby focuses on the Maktoum family, whose royal brothers Maktoum, Mohammed, and Hamdan have been making waves in the Thoroughbred industry since the early eighties. In the mid-nineties, the brothers got together and formed Godolphin Racing, and one of the prizes on which they’ve focused their eyes is the Kentucky Derby. As of Levin’s writing, they had yet to win one. (For that matter, as of this review, the streak still holds.) One would expect, given these two thoughts and the title, that the focus would therefore be on the Maktoums’ quest to win the Kentucky Derby.

    That’s one focus, but not the only one. In fact, the Derby quest takes, in the latter half of the book, second stage to the obvious focus any writer would have been looking to zero in on at the time this book was written– Godolphin’s all-out assault on the 2001 Breeders’ Cup, held in Elmont, New York only six weeks after the bombing of the World Trade Center. (The two tie in thanks to a fortuitous late-nineties comment by Sheikh Mohammed that Godolphin would win the Kentucky Derby by 2002; Levin’s focus on Godolphin’s two-year-old 2001 string follows naturally.)

    To say the least, this book was not written with the seasoned horseplayer in mind; Levin takes time to veer off into anecdotes well known to every horseplayer over the age of twelve, but that would be unknown to the general public. Thus, we can deduce that the book was, in fact, aimed at the general public, rather than the specialist horseplayer. Quite a radical title for DRF Press to publish in the old days, but an interesting statement by the new guard.

    So, does it succeed? I think it does. Levin has crafted a book that, while it trips over its feet sometimes (some of those diversions mentioned in the last paragraph do tend to kill the pace instead of building suspense), would make a very good introduction to the world of racing for the non-horseplayer. Like Auerbach’s Wild Ride or Barich’s Laughing in the Hills, From the Desert to the Derby presents horse racing from a human, rather than an equine, angle, staying away from jargon and easing the reader into an understanding of the sport. Quite nicely done, this, and worth your time. *** ½
    Rating: 4 / 5

  3. Essence of Dubai, who was gunning for this year’s 128th Derby for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Stables, finished a disappointing 9th. Despite this expensive colt’s subpar performance, the story that unfolds in “From The Desert To The Derby” is sure to entertain even the slightest horse racing enthusiast. Author Jason Levin digs deep into the inside scoop on how the billionaire crown prince of Dubai has bought the best American horse-flesh available in an all-out attempt to win America’s premier races–which ultimately began with the Kentucky Derby, followed by the rest of the Triple Crown races and the Breeders’ Cup in the fall. Some of the colorful interviews with American trainers who have publicly critcized the Sheikhs unorthodox training and preparation methods are worth the cost of the book alone. The book takes you on a wild ride from the breeding shed to the expensive yearling sales at Keeneland and Saratoga. A+
    Rating: 5 / 5

  4. I purchased this book with the intention of learning the thoughts, procedures and techniques of the Godolphin Stables of Dubai while persuing a Derby win. The amount of information on these subjects could have been put on one page. Instead there was page after page of race results, the history of horse racing in general and famous race courses in particular, quotes and conversations with trainers, plus I picked up on a definite anit-Royal Family attitude. Also, the contents of the book has no continuity and seem to be just a collection of facts and records. I think think the title is very misleading and did not finish the book.
    Rating: 1 / 5


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