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$13,916
pledged of $17,024pledged of $17,024 goal
171
backers
9days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Fri, July 26 2019 11:00 PM UTC +00:00.

$13,916
pledged of $17,024pledged of $17,024 goal
171
backers
9days to go

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by Fri, July 26 2019 11:00 PM UTC +00:00.

About

Churchill Downs is the epicenter of Kentucky’s equine heritage and the most storied racetrack in the world. More than a thousand workers come to the backside of Churchill Downs on any given day during a meet. Before sunrise, seven days a week, stable hands, hot walkers, grooms, outriders, jockeys, and more tend to the well-being of the horses and the track. Most will never stand in the winner’s circle, but, every year, like clockwork, a handful of stories are written about these workers in the lead-up to the Kentucky Derby. The invaluable support they provide the racing industry is justly highlighted, and for a brief moment, their faces grace the folds of the newspaper, and their voices and stories are heard. Like the Derby itself, though, this focus is fleeting. It’s over as soon as it has begun.

Exercise rider and professional MMA fighter Chelsea Bailey, one of the authors of the book (photo courtesy of Chelsea Bailey)
Exercise rider and professional MMA fighter Chelsea Bailey, one of the authors of the book (photo courtesy of Chelsea Bailey)

Sometimes, slower is better.

Photos by groom Clarke Otte. Clockwise from left: ferrier David Wood shoes a horse; workers in the old Churchill Downs blacksmith shop; Bimp, Tommy Long, Centerfield Slim, and Ferris in front of a barn
Photos by groom Clarke Otte. Clockwise from left: ferrier David Wood shoes a horse; workers in the old Churchill Downs blacksmith shop; Bimp, Tommy Long, Centerfield Slim, and Ferris in front of a barn

It takes time and care to know someone well, and to understand where they are from. That’s why the Louisville Story Program has spent almost three years engaging equine workers in a collaboration that will soon result inthe book Better Lucky Than Good: Tall Tales and Straight Talk from the Backside of the Track. With chapters authored by more than 30 backside workers, this book will be the most caring, in-depth look into the lives and stories of equine workers ever published. Through intensive collaborative editing, we have developed an extraordinarily rich document of the unique world of the backside of the track, written--from the inside out--by those who live and work on there. 

L-R: Kenny Luckett, proprietor of Luckett's Tack Shop, as a young man; groom Cristobal Resendiz Trejo with his daughter; assistant trainer Maria Sol Aller as a child in Argentina. All three are contributors to the book.
L-R: Kenny Luckett, proprietor of Luckett's Tack Shop, as a young man; groom Cristobal Resendiz Trejo with his daughter; assistant trainer Maria Sol Aller as a child in Argentina. All three are contributors to the book.

Contributors include grooms, hot walkers, exercise riders, shedrow foremen, assistant trainers, trainers, touts, a jockey, a former track superintendent, a clocker, a gap attendant, an outrider, a gate crew member, a pony person, a horticulturist, a silks seamstress, a tack and saddle man, a security guard, touts,  a farm manager, a chaplaincy associate, a drug and alcohol counselor, the proprietor of the legendary Wagner's Pharmacy, and others.

Three of the book's authors. L-R: shedrow foreman Cristina Bahena, Kenny Luckett in his tack shop; security guard and retired groom Leonard "Plummie" Bass
Three of the book's authors. L-R: shedrow foreman Cristina Bahena, Kenny Luckett in his tack shop; security guard and retired groom Leonard "Plummie" Bass
Backside photos by groom Clarke Otte. Clockwise from upper left: exercise rider PJ;  veterinarian and horse owner Doc Harthill; groom Sam Dixon, exercise rider Willard Pinkston, and others with a horse owner;  groom Percolator Bates; grooms Mo and James Albert
Backside photos by groom Clarke Otte. Clockwise from upper left: exercise rider PJ; veterinarian and horse owner Doc Harthill; groom Sam Dixon, exercise rider Willard Pinkston, and others with a horse owner; groom Percolator Bates; grooms Mo and James Albert
Four of the book's authors. Clockwise from top left: pony person Monnie Goetz; jockey turned assistant trainer Greta Kuntzweiler; assistant trainer Darial Navas performing with his band Los Complices de la Sierra; hot walker Merlin Cano Hernandez. (Photo credits: Ben Freedman, Jim Leuenberger, Ben Freedman, and Liz Schlemmer / WFPL News)
Four of the book's authors. Clockwise from top left: pony person Monnie Goetz; jockey turned assistant trainer Greta Kuntzweiler; assistant trainer Darial Navas performing with his band Los Complices de la Sierra; hot walker Merlin Cano Hernandez. (Photo credits: Ben Freedman, Jim Leuenberger, Ben Freedman, and Liz Schlemmer / WFPL News)

How far along is this project?

We began work on this project in October 2016. After almost three years of working closely with the authors to develop their chapters, we are now almost finished with the manuscript. On November 4, 2019, they will offer their finished book to the world.

How will the money be used?

The funds we raise through Kickstarter will cover the costs of printing and freight for over 2,500 copies of the book. The book will be professionally designed and printed on high-quality 80 lb. paper, with a nice thick cover with scratch-resistant nylon lamination. And it will be a lot of book: at 8" x 9" and approximately 320 full-color pages.

  • Printing + freight for 2,000 full-color 320 page 8"x 9" books: $14,222
  • Shipping to backers: $1,440
  • Kickstarter fees: $1,362
  • Total: $17,024

Revenues from future book sales will support the efforts of more people whose voices are often unheard as they partner with the Louisville Story Program to develop books, exhibits, and radio stories about their lives and communities. 

What is the Louisville Story Program?

The Louisville Story Program is a nonprofit that strengthens community by amplifying unheard voices and untold stories. We partner closely with Louisville residents whose voices are often unheard to develop books, exhibits, radio stories, and more about their lives and neighborhoods. According to Nikky Finney, winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Poetry, "The Louisville Story Program is challenging the arena of what a book is and what a book can do and where books matter in our communities." 

Better Lucky Than Good is our sixth book project. Our first book, Our Shawnee, was the best-selling book in Louisville in 2014 and has been praised by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as "an inspiring story of perseverance." Our second book, I Said Bang!: A History of the Dirt Bowl, the Crown Jewel of the Most Basketball-Obsessed City in America, was published in February 2016 and has enjoyed an enthusiastic response from the Louisville community. It's the first book ever in which the members of a city's playground basketball community have developed a book that documents the richness of that community and its history. Our third book project, We Can Hear You Just Fine: Clarifications from the Kentucky School for the Blind, resulted in the nation's first professionally published book written by blind and visually impaired teenagers. Our fourth book, Available Light: Louisville Through the Lens of Bud Dorsey, honors the legacy of Bud Dorsey, West Louisville's most iconic photographer and was produced in close collaboration with him. Our fifth book, No Single Sparrow Makes a Summer, in which narratives rooted in six countries, nine young women document cultural and geographic communities of South Louisville from the inside, exploring topics such as the refugee experience, juvenile detention, motherhood, misperceptions of their neighborhoods, and more. 

Our authors' books promote dialogue across the community and increase awareness of overlooked aspects of Louisville's culture and history. Our authors are paid for their work, and we leverage their achievements into as many additional professional, educational, cultural, and social opportunities for them as possible.Our authors have earned over $40,000 for their work, and their books have been taught widely in schools in Louisville and beyond.

The Louisville Story Program has been recognized with two Leadership in History Awards from the American Association for State and Local History, the 2017 Arts Innovation Award from the Fund for the Arts, and a Kentucky History Award from the Kentucky Historical Society.

Project video courtesy of Kertis.

The work we have done up to this point on Better Lucky Than Good was made possible in part by support from Louisville Metro Government in partnership with the Fund for the Arts, and by the Snowy Owl Foundation, the Arthur K. Smith Family Foundation, the Gilbert Foundation, the Kentucky Oral History Commission, Mrs. Christina Lee Brown, Matthew Barzun and Brooke Brown Barzun, and Owsley Brown III.

Risks and challenges

In theory, an unforeseen circumstance could make it more challenging for an author or our book designer to complete their chapter on our current timeline. This seems highly unlikely at this point based on everyone's progress and strong commitment to the work. This is our sixth book project, and so far we have never had to delay a book's publication date after announcing it. We are currently on track to publish the book in November 2019.

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    California Chrome KY Derby saddle towel

    California Chrome replica saddle towel from when he won the 140th Kentucky Derby (courtesy of Taylor Made Stallions). You will also receive all rewards from the $150 level.

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    Day at Churchill Downs Millionaires Row

    Exclusive "Trifecta" package for the 2019/20 Racing Season (i.e., any time before July 1, 2020) at historic Churchill Downs! Includes a table for eight on Millionaire's Row, a chef's table lunch, reserved seating, eight racing programs, and eight passes to the Kentucky Derby Museum. (Reward courtesy of Churchill Downs.) In addition, you will received a signed copy of the book, two additional copies donated to book authors or Louisville Free Public Library on your behalf, a limited-edition set of postcards of backside photographs by Clarke Otte, a used horseshoe from the backside of Churchill Downs, and your name listed in the Acknowledgments section of the book.

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    Exclusive tour of the backside

    Book editor Joe Manning will give you and a friend an exclusive, in-depth tour of the backside of Churchill Downs. An amazing opportunity to see horse racing in the most up-close and personal way possible--and to meet some of the book's authors along the way! Also includes all rewards listed at the $150 level.

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    California Chrome halter

    Own a one-of-a-kind piece of history: a halter worn by California Chrome, the #3 money-earner in the history of thoroughbred racing! He won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Dubai World Cup. Includes certificate of authenticity. (Halter courtesy of Taylor Made Stallions.) Also includes all rewards listed at the $150 level.

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    In addition to all of the rewards listed at the $150 level, we will donate five copies of the book to the Backside Learning Center on your behalf.

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    A day in Owner's box at Keeneland

    Experience a day at Keeneland from an Owner's box right at the finish line! The box holds six people and can be reserved during the 2020 Keeneland Spring Meet. (Reward courtesy of Taylor Made Sales Agency.) Also includes all rewards listed at the $150 level.

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