Joe Hernandez Bio Wins Book of the Year Award

Alvarado takes book prize for The Voice of Santa Anita

By Yvette Robertson
Published on LatinoLA: April 8, 2009

Joe Hernandez Bio Wins Book of the Year Award

The Untold Story of Joe Hernandez: The Voice of Santa Anita by Rudolph Alvarado has won the 2009 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award presented by Castleton Lyons and Thoroughbred Times. The award is presented to the best book published in 2008 that focuses on some aspect of the Thoroughbred horseracing industry.

The winner was announced at a special reception at Castleton Lyons Farm in Lexington, Kentucky on the evening of Sunday, April 5. Alvarado received a custom designed Irish crystal trophy and a $10,000 award. Thoroughbred Times will feature the biography in its April 6 edition. The magazine will include an excerpt from the book, an interview with the author and judges' reactions to the piece.

Alvarado's biography chronicles the life of Joe Hernandez, the legendary announcer who called the great races of Seabiscuit and Johnny Longden's last ride. Hernandez became one of the sport's leading race callers during the Great Depression, when many Mexicans and Mexican Americans were being repatriated to Mexico. Before collapsing at the microphone in 1972, Hernandez called 15,587 consecutive races at Santa Anita Park, a string that stretched back to the track's Christmas Day opening in 1934.

T. D. Thornton, one of contest's judges and winner of the 2007 Dr. Tony Ryan Book Award for his Not by a Long Shot: A Season at a Hard-Luck Horse Track, noted that, "The Untold Story of Joe Hernandez pulled me in like a vacuum. It's not just a fine piece of racing literature, but an exhaustively researched historical document that details the origins of West Coast racing, the art of race calling, and one man's struggle to break through racial barriers at a time when the odds were stacked mightily against minorities. The meticulously detailed source notes are a valuable inclusion, and the bonus CD that highlights Joe's race calls is an extra-nice touch--especially the haunting inclusion of 'Joe's Last Call,' in which a tape recorder was inadvertently left running to detail Hernandez's eerie collapse at the microphone during the final race of his career."

The Dr. Tony Ryan Award was established in 2006 by Castleton Lyons, a prominent thoroughbred breeding farm in Lexington, Kentucky, and Thoroughbred Times, a leading racehorse publication also located in Lexington. The award honors Dr. Tony Ryan, founder of Ireland-based Ryanair airlines, who died in October 2007.

Commenting on the award, Alvarado stated, "When Shane Ryan, Dr. Tony Ryan's son, announced that I had won, I was shocked and deeply humbled. When I started this project in 2002, I never thought that it would culminate in being named the best book published in 2008 about thoroughbred horse racing. It is an honor that must be shared with a number of individuals who assisted me along the way and one that I've never had the pleasure of meeting, Laura Hillenbrand. I first came across Joe's name while reading Seabiscuit: An American Legend and from there decided to write the story of Joe's life."

Alvarado's biography was published by Caballo Press of Ann Arbor, an independent publisher located in southeastern Michigan. A documentary of Hernandez's life is currently in production and will be released to coincide with the upcoming seventy-fifth anniversary of Santa Anita Park. Signed copies can be purchased and additional information about the book, Joe Hernandez and the author are available at The book is being distributed to wholesale buyers and libraries through Baker & Taylor, one of the nation's leading book distributors.

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