Regal Heart:

An American Filly

Racing's Newest Chapter
One lifelong fan sets out to script the next great American thoroughbred story
By International Race Horse Magazine Staff Writer
Preorders for Regal Heart: An American Filly will launch on July 16 and run through August 29. click here to preorder

What do Seabiscuit and American Pharoah have in common? Despite racing many years apart, it is not a trick question. The answer is both stories ignited a passion for horse racing in new fans and helped grow the sport. Most racing enthusiasts can recall a relative or friend taking them to the track for the first time, but now fans can truly be engaged in the development of a great racing story. Enter Regal Heart, a thoroughbred racing novel, written by owner, breeder, and life-long fan T.R. Racki.

“It was Seabiscuit and Smarty Jones,” recounts Racki as to what brought him into the sport in 2004. “Everyone has their own ‘ah-hah’ moment that ignites their racing passion. Smarty’s Belmont Stakes stretch drive was it for me. While he didn’t win, his story impacted me deeply, how he was attempting to win something not accomplished in twenty-six years. After that, I was hooked on racing. No one in my family knew anything about the sport. I taught myself how to read the Form then grabbed a friend and we headed out to Santa Anita to take racing head on, bright eyed and oblivious. We didn’t know what we were really doing but we had a great time,” Racki recalls while laughing. “Oh, and the [mutuel] tellers kept asking if I was old enough.”

Regal Heart: An American Filly follows the story of a temperamental last place filly and her owner-trainer Robert Simon. Both forgotten by the game, Regal is able to find her heart through Robert’s tutelage, and together they make a bid for America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby. Clearly, such a plot makes for an inviting read. However, why script a story?

“Each of us brings something to the sport that is our unique gift. Some are lucky enough to be a Triple Crown trainer or a Hall of Fame rider. My gift just happens to be writing. I want to grow and share the sport as much as everyone else does. So I set out to write the next Seabiscuit.”

Being an ambassador for the sport is nothing new for Racki. In 2008, he took a volunteer position as the program director for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association's Ambassador Program which piloted during Del Mar's summer meet. "I had the chance to bring as many as fifty potential new fans to the track each week and expose them to the sport from the backstretch to the clubhouse. Many of these individuals told me they would have never come to the track on their own, but since they had a personal guide, they really felt welcome and willing to experience something new and slightly intimidating. Based on their exit surveys many said they were likely to return and most indicated would that would bring a friend." Racki continued to serve until relocating to Northern California in 2010. "Writing Regal reflects my desire to continue to serve the sport, even though I am no longer within easy reach of a racetrack."

Racki’s take on getting Regal Heart to print is quite different than the norm. Typically, mainstream books are published in a closed system where fans and readers have no say in the outcome. Regal Heart is looking to rewrite this process by allowing supporters who preorder copies to have a significant say in the story and the overall look of the book. Horse racing rarely allows its fans such a democratic voice in shaping the future and growth of the sport. Furthermore, because of the ongoing media popularity surrounding crowdfunding, preorders will be taken through, a book-centric crowdfunding website devoted to getting debut authors’ works into reader’s hands. Should fans step up and support the book early, a wildly popular crowdfunding campaign will generate big buzz for horseracing, even before the book is available to the general public.

“After years of consolidation, there are only five major publishing houses left in the United States today. Most are unwilling to take on new authors because of the financial risk,” explained Racki. “Independent publishing is now the most effective way in getting new ideas and stories out to the world. Websites like Pubslush allow readers to determine what should be printed. Readers have become the gatekeepers, they have the power of yes. Even Harry Potter was rejected twelve times. It was only the pestering power of an eight-year-old reader that saved the boy wizard."

Now is it up to racing to decide if the next great American champion is not at the racetrack, but at the local bookstore, running into the hearts and minds of the next generation of racing fans.