Thornton, T.D. 1968(?)- (Tim Thornton)

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Thornton, T.D. 1968(?)- (Tim Thornton)


Born c. 1968; son of Paul Thornton (a high school basketball coach and basketball official). Education: Graduated from the University of New Hampshire.


Home—Rowley, MA.


Writer, journalist, broadcaster, commentator, and horse-racing announcer. Worked in public relations for twelve years at the Suffolk Downs race track. Racing commentator on radio and television programs.


Not by a Long Shot: A Season at a Hard-Luck Horse Track, PublicAffairs (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including the Boston Globe and the Racing Times.


T.D. Thornton is a New England author, journalist, and freelance writer who has been a contributor to the Boston Globe. He is a longtime horse-racing enthusiast, and much of Thornton's professional life has revolved around the track at Suffolk Downs, in East Boston, Massachusetts. His parents trained horses that raced at Suffolk and elsewhere, and Thornton himself developed a deep interest in racing when he was in high school, reported Hector Longo in a Newburyport, Massachusetts, Daily News profile. For some twelve years, Thornton worked in public relations and as publicity director for Suffolk Downs, and also served as an alternate race announcer.

Once a prestigious track where the likes of Whirlaway, War Admiral, and the renowned Seabiscuit thundered around the oval, Suffolk Downs has long been in a state of gradual decline. For many, however, Suffolk Downs continues to exude a powerful allure, and even if greater attention is paid to premiere tracks such as Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, Suffolk and its smaller and lesser brethren still manage to cling to former glories and eke out a day-to-day existence. "A track like Suffolk Downs is the closest you can get to the essence of the sport," Thornton told Longo. "These people continue on with life stacked against them. And they do it because of the horses."

In Not by a Long Shot: A Season at a Hard-Luck Horse Track, Thornton explores the essence of hardscrabble effort and sheer tenacity that keeps Suffolk Downs alive. The book covers the eventful 2000 season at the racetrack, and the author delves deeply into the lives and personalities of the people and animals that represent the best and worst of the track's modern incarnation. He "sought out anecdotes from all walks of life—trainers, owners, riders, ticket sellers, custodial staffers, vendors, anyone with a story to tell," Longo observed. Thornton, "in his rueful account of the 2000 racing season, manages to communicate the weird allure of horse racing, even at the lower levels," commented New York Times Book Review critic William Grimes. "Struggling trainers, low-paid backstretch workers, degenerate gamblers, and deluded owners all belong to the same mysterious cult, kept alive by the faintest glimmerings of sickly hope," Grimes further observed.

Thornton describes in detail the physical challenges faced by the horses and jockeys at Suffolk, from the frigid winds and freezing temperatures at the opening of the season in January to the later rains that turn the track into an elongated strip of mud. He recounts stories of winning payouts so small that jockeys have been known to scour the floors for winning tickets discarded by mistake. He tells the story of Rudy Baez, once one of the track's top riders, who was confined to a wheelchair after a 1999 accident but who fought his way back to a position on the racetrack. He profiles horses such as Saratoga Ridge, a strong thoroughbred that had a consistent habit of finishing races in second place. Thornton's human profiles include characters such as Patty Meadow, a Harvard-trained physician who became a trainer and who demonstrated an idiosyncratic tendency to give her horses nearly unpronounceable names. A highlight of Thornton's book is his account of the annual Massachusetts Handicap, at one time the most prestigious, most historic, and most lucrative event at Suffolk Downs.

"Any horseracing fan who wants a peek at the inner workings of a track will want to pick this up," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Library Journal reviewer Amy Ford commented that "Thornton's book provides a good picture of the plight of smalltime racing." A Kirkus Reviews critic named Thornton's account a "terrific portrait of the 2000 season" and a "fitting tribute to the race course" itself and its unique history and culture.



Daily News (Newburyport, MA), April 18, 2007, Hector Longo, author profile.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2007, review of Not by a Long Shot: A Season at a Hard-Luck Horse Track, p. 213.

Library Journal, April 1, 2007, Amy Ford, review of Not by a Long Shot, p. 97.

New York Times Book Review, April 11, 2007, William Grimes, "Strange Racetrack Critters and the Horses They Watch," review of Not by a Long Shot.

Publishers Weekly, December 18, 2006, review of Not by a Long Shot, p. 51.


Perseus Books Group Web site, (March 17, 2008), author profile.

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Thornton, T.D. 1968(?)- (Tim Thornton)

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